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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Assisted Suicide -- "Taking Care of Business"

A great lesson for all of us in times like these is to constantly keep alert for signals from the anti-life crowd. We must point our antennae in all directions for the pro-death crowd's aggression will not be limited to abortion. The economic chaos that we are muddling through right now is like a breeding ground for those eager to use the low-level panic that currently exists to go after the medically vulnerable as well.

I thought of that as I read both the latest news from Capitol Hill and the
transcript of an online chat held Monday at with author John West (link). West has just published a memoir–"The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides"–which is getting the usual uncritical, sympathetic attention such stories habitually receive.

West tells us that he "assisted" first his father then his mother to die in 1999. Of course he frames their conditions in a manner most conducive to assuring that no one actually thinks through what he did.

West tells us that his father ( "a well-known psychiatrist") "was dying of wide-spread cancer" and "had only a few days left." By contrast his mother "was slowly falling prey to Alzheimer's ... but she was a psychologist, and losing her mind was the cruelest form of death imaginable to her. She had no interest in turning into a vegetable, and so she chose to end her life sooner rather than later."

At the end, I've attached links to this discussion and to West's syrupy
interview with Diane Sawyer of "Good Morning America (link)." You can decide for yourself if I am being unfair. (I think I'm about to go easy on him, compared to what could be said.) Let me make four points.

First, West clearly has an agenda. As the on-line chat and the interview with Sawyer make obvious, West is not merely justifying his decision to assist his parents' deaths, which was and is clearly illegal in California. He also not only wants laws such as Oregon's assisted-suicide statute replicated everywhere, he is not shy about suggesting that the pesky notion of "terminal illness" is problematic.  "Things like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and M.S. aren't on the list. And maybe they shouldn't be, not yet." (Emphasis mine).

Second, West dances all around the obvious fact (as he paraphrases what his mother's neurologist said) that his mother still "had lot of brain left." "It was, indeed, pretty early on for her to make the decision," West says, "which is why I felt so much conflict myself."

He later elaborates: "She had a lot of 'herself' left, and I selfishly wanted to share it with her and keep connected with that." But, brave soul that he is (West did what he did, according to Sawyer, "with a heavy heart" ), he solders on.

West has to wiggle around the obvious fact that his mother was depressed. (He tells us she was on anti-depressants.) But he turns this to his advantage.  She ought to have been depressed.

"She said something like, 'My husband of 50 years just died, and my brain is turning into cabbage ... of COURSE I'm depressed! I have a RIGHT to be depressed!' That kind of insight goes a long way toward proving seriousness of purpose."

No, it doesn't show either insight or "seriousness of purpose" at all. It shows that she was depressed and needed support from, among other people, her son.

Third, rules are for the other guys and breaking them just shows how foolish they are. Sure, her condition was not that serious in 1999, and sure it was illegal to "assist" in her suicide. "But she also was a psychologist and a professional. And she also was my mother. And I loved her," West says. "And some things are more important than following the rules that are meant for the greater crowd."

Fourth, and finally, West understands and alludes to the economic imperative that is driving the wider discussion. One member of the online chat writes, "I have also heard many times if there was a meter running showing the cost incurred keeping someone alive who is going to die anyway, people would make the decision to suspend medical care much faster. Do you think this is true?"

West responds, "I think it might be true. A 'meter' is an objective way [!] to show people the truth of what's going on. In the absence of some device to remind people of what's outside their heads, people tend to stay in there and wrestle with guilt and other emotions ... which is fine, but it's important for everyone, especially in difficult situations, to wake up, act and think like a grown-up, and consider the bigger picture."

And what is the "grown-up" way to act? As he described his actions to Sawyer, "I slipped into mom's bedroom. And she and I took care of business." If that doesn't send chills up and down your spine, I don't know what would.

In the current environment, I would not be at all surprised if West is called before a congressional committee to explain how "taking care of business" is a wonderfully effective way to deal with the "bigger picture"--"containing" medical costs.

Click here for the Washington post online discussion

Click here for the "Good Morning America" interview with Diane Sawyer

Contact: Dave Andrusko
Source: National Right to Life
Source URL:
Publish Date: February 11, 2009
Link to this article:


The IFRL is the largest grassroots pro-life organization in Illinois. A non-profit organization, that serves as the state coordinating body for local pro-life chapters representing thousands of Illinois citizens working to restore respect for all human life in our society. The IFRL is composed of people of different political persuasions, various faiths and diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. Since 1973 the Illinois Federation for Right to Life has been working to end abortion and restore legal protection to those members of the human family who are threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. Diverse though we are, we hold one common belief - that every human being has an inalienable right to life that is precious and must be protected. IFRL is dedicated to restoring the right to life to the unborn, and protection for the disabled and the elderly.   Click here to learn more about the IFRL.

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