Magazine article The Christian Century

On the Slippery Slope

Magazine article The Christian Century

On the Slippery Slope

Article excerpt

At the bottom of this slide lies the abrogation of moral strictures against suicide.

Some of the most visible and forceful opponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are people who are severely disabled. Why do they take such an interest in this issue? After all, no one is proposing that people who are blind or in wheelchairs or mentally disabled should be put to death. The movement for assisted suicide is about something else, isn't it--about easing people's needless pain and suffering in the unambiguous end-stages of life and about giving people choices about how and when they die?

What many disabled people can see quite clearly, however, is that the legalization of assisted suicide puts us on a very slippery slope. Once society accepts certain people's "fight" to be killed, those who are in similar situations will have to confront an implicit, perhaps explicit, question: Aren't you better off dead too? Those who live with severe suffering and infirmities will inevitably feel some need to justify their continued existence to family, friends, doctors and medical insurers.

Another route down the slippery slope will be carved by our society's commitment to individual choice and by the "fights" language that defines current discussion. Why grant the "fight" to die--and provide assistance toward that end---only to the terminally ill? Why shouldn't we expand the definition of "a life that is not worth living" to include any that an individual may offer, including the wealthy but unhappy Richard Cory? …

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