Compassion and Choice’s Elastic Definition of “Terminal Illness” and “Intolerable Dying Process”



The assisted suicide ideologues at Compassion and Choices–formerly the Hemlock Society–pretend that their agenda is very limited and constrained, merely a teensy-weensy safety valve for use when nothing else can be done to relieve suffering. That’s all phony, baloney of course. The ultimate agenda is expansive, well beyond the actively dying.

Proof of this is found in answers to interrogatories C & C filed in connection with its Montana lawsuit, that asked its definition of a “terminally ill adult patient,” who the complaint claimed had a state constitutional right to assisted suicide.  Usually, as in Oregon, this means 6 months or less to live regardless of the medical treatment available to the patient. But C & C’s definition for Montana turns that more precise definition on its head. From its interrogatory answer # 4 (no link, my emphasis):

    The term “terminally ill adult patient,” as used in the complaint, means a person 18 years of age or older who has an incurable and irreversible condition that, without the administration of life-sustaining treatment, will in the opinion of his or her attending physician, result in death within a relative short time. The definition is not limited to any specific set of illnesses, conditions or diseases…

In other words, the patient won’t die even if he or she receives life sustaining or curative care, but if no such care is rendered.

That’s a very elastic definition.  Think about it: If a 20-year-old diabetic refuses insulin, he will die within “a relatively short time,” but if he takes insulin, could live for decades, a full life span. Ditto, AIDS patients taking the viral inhibitors, cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, patients on kidney dialysis, perhaps even psychiatric patients who are not suicidal only because of anti depressants, etc.

Also, get their description of “intolerable dying process,” for which assisted suicide is the supposed remedy:

    This is a subjective determination made by the individual patient based upon his or her medical condition, and circumstances, symptoms, and personal values and beliefs.

In other words, it is whatever a patient says it is at the time he/she wants to commit suicide.  Such looseness over who qualifies makes impossible any meaningful controls over assisted suicide–which of course is the point.

C & C are very cagy.  But in Montana, they have shown more of their true colors, for example, disdaining the kind of “protective guidelines” put into Oregon and Washington law.  So be very clear, the assisted suicide agenda is not narrow.  It is very broad.  Activists here–unlike their counterparts overseas–just generally lack the candor that would permit us to have a true debate about the means and ends of the ultimate assisted suicide/euthanasia agenda.

Contact: Wesley J. Smith
Source: Secondhand Smoke
Publish Date: December 2, 2009
Link to this article.  
Send this article to a friend.




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.