New York Times Promotes Killing Mentally Ill Patients in Assisted Suicides

The bogus argument that legalized assisted suicide is permanently limited to terminally ill people is struck by a New York Times op-ed where a suicidal Canadian philosophy professor, Clancy Martin, argues that mentally ill people who commit suicide should receive help from doctors to die.

Martin’s first paragraph makes it clear why his thesis should be rejected out of hand:

My first suicide attempt was when I was young. I tried again as a teenager; As an adult, I tried to kill myself repeatedly and in different ways. However, as a 55-year-old white male (a member of one of the highest-risk groups for suicide in America) and the happily married father of five, I am grateful that I am incapable of killing myself.

If the doctor helped Martin, he wouldn’t be alive today who is happily married, the father of five children, and published in the “newspaper of record.” When a doctor helps a patient die, whether by prescription or lethal injection, the job is done.

Instead of appreciating the gift of life he received as a result of doctors’ prohibition on helping him die, Martin wanted to qualify mentally ill patients for fatal overdoses — an act that doctors forbid in the Hippocratic Oath:

One might expect that as someone who has attempted suicide repeatedly but is still happily alive, I would be opposed to euthanasia on psychiatric grounds. But it is because of my near-suicide that I believe people should have this right.

It is true that policy makers, psychiatrists and medical ethicists must treat requests for euthanasia on psychiatric grounds with particular care, because we do not understand mental illness as well as our physical illness. However, the difficulty in understanding severe psychological suffering is in fact a reason to endorse a cautious policy of assisted suicide for at least some psychiatric cases. When people are desperate for relief from suffering that we don’t fully understand enough to effectively treat, they are given the right and expert medical help to end that suffering takes care of them.

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But that is precisely when a compassionate psychiatrist can stand between the desperate patient and the grave. And, as he seems to have done, these hopeless people often come together and find the strength to carry on.

Martin makes the “strict-rules-can-prevent-abuse” soft-shoe, but as we’ve seen time and time again – in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, and even the US – the rules have offer higher certainty and liberalize and expand as soon as possible the political paradigm. In fact, in recent weeks, that’s exactly what happened in Vermont, Oregon, Canada, and the Netherlands.

He concludes:

Suicidal persons suffering psychological torture shall have the right to consult a medical expert regarding medical assistance in taking their own life and to be provided with that assistance if their need is justified. Having people fear or suffer in great mental agony ending their illness through the many means available to them, often resulting not in death but in severe physical harm, is worse, and it happens everyday.

Who will be the “expert” to judge if there is enough suffering? The patient’s doctor? If the doctor refuses, a suicidal person can go doctor-shopping with the help of euthanasia-advocacy organizations to find one who will say yes. In fact, wherever euthanasia is legal, doctors participate in assisted-suicide deaths of patients outside their own medical specialties.

We must not make suicide easy – the West is experiencing a suicide crisis, after all – and we must always strive to engage in interventions, whether the patient commits suicide due to cancer, a mental illness, or a disaster such as of the death of a child. To do otherwise is abandonment.

The question is whether we still care enough about each other for that to matter. Somehow Martin’s advocacy has the virtue of being an honest articulation of what euthanasia advocacy is really about.

LifeNews.com Note: Wesley J. Smith, JD, is a special consultant at the Center for Bioethics and Culture and a bioethics attorney who blogs at Human Exceptionalism.

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