The Creeping Culture of Euthanasia
I was asked by the National Review to write a story for the magazine on
the recent advances made by the assisted suicide movement. It is
cover story. There is no link, but here are few excerpts:
The assisted-suicide movement has come a long way in just a couple of
decades. Consider, for example, this recent item from the San Francisco
Chronicle: “Charlotte Shultz [the wife of former secretary of state
George Shultz] accepted the invitation to be honorary co- chair (with
Dianne Feinstein) at a Nov. 5 luncheon and program for Compassion &
Choices of Northern California, saying, ‘I’m glad to support the cause,
but I’m in no hurry to use the services.’”
Compassion & Choices used to be called the Hemlock Society. It is
the nation’s premier assisted-suicide advocacy group.
When members of the social and political elite — people like Senator
Feinstein and Mrs. Shultz — associate themselves with assisted-suicide
groups as openly as they would with charities like the United Way, we
have reached a new cultural moment.
There are some on my side of the fence who criticize me for conceding
too much. But I believe that “spin” is the last thing that works,
particularly when you are on the politically incorrect side. After
Washington and Montana last year, to say that the movement hasn’t
advanced is to lack credibility by denying the obvious.
The question is why: I blame the “Oregon Myth,” the false assertion
that assisted suicide in Oregon has essentially been problem
spend some time demonstrating that it isn’t true, with examples of
abuses–such as the Barbara Wagner/Randy Stroup travesty–and I
illuminate the joke that is the Oregon oversight system:
These advances would not have happened but for a powerful myth promoted
by assisted-suicide advocates and helped along by a compliant media:
the notion that Oregon’s experiment with legalized assisted suicide has
been a success, in which problems and abuses are rare or nonexistent.
It is true that the annual statistical reports published by the Public
Health Division (henceforth OPHD) of Oregon’s Department of Human
Services have revealed very few problems. But there’s a reason for
that: The reporting system was designed by the authors of the
assisted-suicide legislation to be incapable of vigorous policing and
in-depth data gathering.
As a result, nobody knows precisely what is going on in Oregon. The
data in the state-published reports are based overwhelmingly on self-
reporting by death-prescribing doctors — who are as likely to admit
violating the law on this matter as they are to tell the IRS that they
have cheated on their taxes. Indeed, as the bureaucrats charged with
publishing the annual report admitted to an investigative committee
from the British House of Lords, the OPHD engages in only very limited
and random checking of the information it receives. Moreover, the
department has no budget or authority to investigate apparent
violations of the law, and all documentation relied upon in writing the
annual report is destroyed once the report has been published.
Dr.Kathleen Foley, perhaps the nation’s premier palliative-care doctor,
and suicide-prevention expert Dr. Herbert Hendin wrote in the Michigan
Law Review last year that the OPHD “does not collect the information it
would need to effectively monitor the law and in its actions and
publications acts as the defender of the law rather than as the
protector of the welfare of terminally ill patients.”
I discuss the reasons for the loss of I-1000 in Washington and the
Montana court imposition of assisted suicide as a constitutional right.
I get into the role of Compassion and Choices in Obamacare and its
attempt to change its image into what could be called the Planned
Parenthood of death. I conclude:
Two thousand and eight was a banner year for the assisted-suicide/
euthanasia movement. It’s likely that no new states will legalize
assisted suicide this year. But if the last 20 years prove anything, it
is that euthanasia advocates are passionately committed, work hard, and
feel that time is on their side. Are their opponents equally committed?
I hope the article will educate people who don’t pay close attention to
this issue about the myth of Oregon. Even more importantly, I hope it
will be a wake up call for all of those who oppose assisted suicide–but
consider it a bit of a back burner issue because it can’t happen here.
The year 2008 proved that they are wrong.
Wesley J. Smith
Date: September 8, 2009
to this article.
this article to a friend.
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