A short while ago I wrote in opposition to “assisted suicide,” an opinion that garnered an astonishing amount of hostility and anger. It is rather incredible how passionately people get about letting other people kill themselves; they are very eager—almost happy!—to subtly encourage their fellow humans to swallow the pills and be done with it. It does not bode well for our country, which is slowly but surely making it legal for doctors to help kill their patients. It is equally instructive to look at other countries that have legalized this barbarous practice; a number of European countries have already done this, and the results are chilling:
A new study of doctor-assisted death for people with mental disorders raises questions about the practice, finding that in more than half of approved cases, people declined treatment that could have helped, and that many cited loneliness as an important reason for wanting to die. The study, of cases in the Netherlands, should raise concerns for other countries debating where to draw the line when it comes to people’s right to die, experts said.
At least three countries — the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland — allow assisted suicides for people who have severe psychiatric problems and others, like Canada, are debating such measures, citing the rights of people with untreatable mental illness. Laws in the United States, passed in five states, restrict doctor-assisted suicide to mentally competent adults with terminal illnesses only, not for disorders like depression and schizophrenia.
Sadly, there is not much reason to imagine that this study will have any real impact on euthanasia politics, at least in the places in which it is already legalized. For most decent people, it is uniquely horrifying to imagine a doctor helping kill someone just because he or she cites “loneliness” as a motivating factor. But it is nonetheless fully within the Overton window of the politics of assisted suicide, precisely on the same rationale as every other justification for the practice. If one’s bodily autonomy is enough to justify a doctor’s helping one commit suicide in the event of a terminal illness, is there any reason that a seemingly-intractable depression shouldn’t be treated the same way? Put another way: if there’s a limiting principle regarding assisted suicide—a big if—then why should the line be drawn before loneliness? If these cases in the Netherlands are any indication, it is perhaps inevitable that legalized euthanasia will be extended to people who are simply tired of living. Clobbered by the politically correct language of pro-death activists, most people have no real ability to argue against this.
There is an astonishing kind of groundswell underway within much of the developed world. In Europe, authorities are baffled that unhappy people are taking advantage of a clean and easy way to kill themselves; in the United States, abortion is increasingly coming to be seen as a positive social good and in some cases a cause for celebration and joy. Life is incrementally becoming more dangerous to live: while in the womb you must contend with a culture that views you as a disposable “clump of cells,” and when elderly or sick you must deal with a culture that slowly but surely offers you more incentive to commit suicide. A civilized society is not so callous and so cavalier about precious human life—and so we must ask ourselves how civilized we really are anymore.