Nitschke Brings His Suicide Classes to the USA



Australia’s suicide obsessed Philip Nitschke is bringing his how-to-kill-yourself class to the USA.  I have a piece about his planned San Francisco suicide lecture in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. From the column:

Shouldn’t there be limits to assisted-suicide permissiveness? Not according to Nitschke, who bluntly takes assisted-suicide advocacy to its logical conclusion. If we each own our bodies, he says, and if self-termination is an acceptable answer to human suffering, then assisted suicide shouldn’t be restricted to limited “subgroups,” such as the dying. Indeed, in 2001 interview with National Review Online, Nitschke asserted that “all people qualify … including the depressed, the elderly bereaved, the troubled teen.”

Nitschke’s advocacy has had real casualties:
In 2002, a woman named Nancy Crick caused a media frenzy in Australia after announcing publicly that she was being counseled by Nitschke because of terminal cancer. After months of equivocating, she finally killed herself in front of a group of awestruck euthanasia advocates, who reportedly applauded when she took the drugs (Nitschke was not present). When the autopsy showed that she was not terminally ill, Nitschke admitted that he and Crick knew it all along. However, rather than apologize, he argued that her nonterminal condition was “irrelevant” because she was “hopelessly ill” with a painful digestive problem.

Some claim that Nitschke is fringe.  He’s not:
Other assisted-suicide advocates will say that Nitschke’s activities illustrate why assisted suicide should be legally regulated. But why would that stop him from “counseling” people who would not qualify for assisted suicide under such a law? More important, if society comes to broadly accept a “right” of the dying to receive assisted suicide – currently legal in three states – what would prevent legal access to terminal prescriptions from expanding eventually to people with serious disabilities and chronic diseases, the elderly and the existentially despairing, who, after all, might suffer far more profoundly and for a longer time? And indeed, that is precisely what has happened in the Netherlands and Switzerland, after assisted suicide became popularly accepted.

Nitschke appears to be on the radical edge of the assisted suicide movement – but he’s really not. Should assisted-suicide mentality sink into the bedrock of American culture, the question will not be whether its practice will expand to accommodate Nitschke’s dark vision, but rather, how long that process will take.

Assisted suicide advocacy is often well meaning. But it is profoundly destructive. Over time, as has happened in the Netherlands, it turns abandonment into a virtue and promotes the idea of a life not worth living. That is an especially dangerous notion in these days of Obamacare, where the drive to cut costs could promote self elimination over life-extending care–as it already has in Oregon in the Barbara Wagner/Randy Stroup cases.

Contact: Wesley J. Smith
Source: Secondhand Smoke
Publish Date: November 2, 2009
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