Physician-assisted death has quickly become an accepted practice in ten states, including California. Proponents insist these practices are “compassionate” or “dignified” ways to die, when in reality, it’s a grave violation of human dignity.
In 2016, California passed a law allowing terminally ill patients to obtain life-ending drugs from their doctors. A revised version of the law took effect last year, removing crucial safeguards.
Last month, disability rights advocates sued the state of California in an attempt to overturn its physician-assisted death law, arguing that it’s too easy for people with terminal illnesses to disregard their own human dignity and end their lives prematurely with the help of a doctor. The lawsuit argues that California’s End of Life Option Act violates equal protection and due process rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
The plaintiffs argue that racial minorities and people with disabilities may be more likely to opt for physician-assisted death because those groups are statistically less likely to receive adequate medical or mental health care.
They expressed concern that vulnerable patients could be pressured into ending their lives because they don’t want to be a burden for family members or caretakers. Often, physician-assisted death is less expensive than the medical care patients would otherwise need.
The lawsuit also argues that the law is similar to the deeply immoral practice of eugenics, which aims to reduce the population of certain minorities or those with disabilities. The system “steers people with terminal disabilities away from necessary mental health care, medical care, and disability supports, and towards death by suicide under the guise of ‘mercy’ and ‘dignity’ in dying,” the suit reads.
One of the plaintiffs, Ingrid Tischer, argued that people who opt to use drugs to end their lives may not even be aware that there are other options that could help them manage their pain.
“It really does create two classes of people,” said Tischer. “One side gets [suicide] prevention, one side gets a [life-ending] prescription. And that is discriminatory.”
Beyond being discriminatory, physician-assisted death leads to a slippery slope that could significantly impact how society treats the disabled, the elderly, and the poor.
Lastly, attempting to “eliminate” suffering by ending life, rather than helping patients through it, is not the most compassionate solution. John Stonestreet for Breakpoint writes, “…the commitment to eliminate pain at any cost, though often sold in the name of compassion, ultimately undermines compassion.” Stonestreet notes that “life begins and ends in a natural arc and possesses incalculable value throughout. We also must reckon with dependency; that we are all born dependent, will die dependent, and will remain dependent on others throughout our lives. Acknowledging this reality leads to true compassion. Ignoring it leads to killing the suffering instead of caring for them.”
Life is immeasurably valuable from the moment of conception to natural death. Assisted suicide laws intrinsically violate the dignity of human life.
Hopefully, this lawsuit helps expose the injustice and immorality of physician-assisted death.