Magazine article The Christian Century

Care at the End

Magazine article The Christian Century

Care at the End

Article excerpt

A recent cover of People magazine featured the story of Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old woman with brain cancer who had announced the date she intended to end her own life. She had moved to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. Maynard wanted to make sure that she could be prescribed a drug so that she could end her life and reduce her suffering and that of her family.

This is a familiar argument. When former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey recently announced his support for a bill to legalize assisted suicide in the United Kingdom, he cited the need to reduce unnecessary suffering. Others argue that individuals have the right to control their own dying and that such a right includes being able to get a prescription for a lethal dose of drugs.

In the United States, assisted suicide has mostly been a hard sell. Since Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide in 1994, more than 140 legislative proposals in 27 states have failed. Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont, and Arizona are the only states where physician-assisted suicide is legal.

Among the most compelling reasons to resist legalization is that every human being is of inestimable worth, a worth undiminished by illness or disease. The worry is that once assisted suicide is tolerated, it will likely become more and more expected. Social pressure will increase for people to end their lives, since society has deemed them lives not worth living. (Physician and ethicist Daniel Sulmasy sees this process happening in the Netherlands--see p. …

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