Why We Must Keep Fighting for Life

3DE361EE00000578-4644268-The_10_month_old_boy_also_has_brain_damage-a-46_1498586584367Western society has truly become a “culture of death.” Three recent news stories illustrate this unfortunate development:

1. Charlie Gard is a ten-month-old with a rare genetic disorder that has put him in a coma. An American doctor offered the family a potentially life-saving experimental treatment for Charlie, and the family soon raised over $1.6 million to cover the expenses.

Charlie’s story took a turn for the worse when his London hospital refused to permit his parents to take him across the Atlantic for treatment. His doctors believed that since he would likely be disabled if the treatment were successful, “it is in Charlie’s best interests to permit Charlie to die with dignity,” a sentiment echoed by a British judge after Charlie’s parents sued.

According to the judge, “Although the parents have parental responsibility [in making medical decisions for their children], overriding control is vested in the court exercising its independent and objective judgment in the child’s best interests.”

Charlie’s parents fought valiantly for the right to secure potentially life-saving treatment for their child, appealing the decision to the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Justice was denied, however, when the ECHR refused to intervene earlier this week, allowing doctors to end Charlie’s life.

2. The parents of an Iowa boy (“Z.P.”) born with cerebral palsy successfully sued their doctor for failing to inform them that their baby would be born with the disability. They say they would have had their baby aborted if they had known about the disability.

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents. As James Silberman accurately notes, “If the right to kill unborn children exists, it follows that a doctor’s failure to inform the parents of an unborn child about the presence of an undesirable trait would indeed be a violation of that right.”

3. The Oregon Senate passed a bill (SB494) earlier this month that would have allowed nursing homes to starve disabled patients to death. The bill was introduced after Bill Harris sued the nursing home caring for his wife, Nora, who suffers from dementia. Harris wanted the nursing home to stop spoon feeding Nora.

Although Nora is dealing with advanced Alzheimer’s, she is still conscious and wants to eat. SB494 would have allowed the nursing home to withhold food and water from Nora until she starved to death.

Thankfully, the legislation recently failed in the House Judiciary Committee. Although the mere fact that the bill passed the Senate is remarkable and frightening, it is unsurprising, considering that Oregon was the first state to allow doctors to kill terminally ill patients who want to die.

Why We Must Keep Fighting

Human life is sacred. Every person, regardless of his or her disabilities or circumstances, has dignity and is inherently valuable.

Human life is beautiful. Anyone who has met the inspiring and beautiful people living with disabilities knows this to be true.

Those with disabilities offer so much to the world; most importantly, they provide the opportunity for society to grow in its compassion for the weak and vulnerable.

Those who have disabilities are no less human than you or me. Their humanity demands the same natural rights we all share, the most important of which is the right to live.

We have not been given the authority to decide whose lives are “worth living.” Abortion, euthanasia, and suicide are so destructive because these things demean human life.

Our shared humanity enjoins us to fight against these evils. We must defend the defenseless. We must speak for Charlie, Nora, and “Z.P.” We must not permit judges and legislators to change and manipulate our laws to allow for the murder of the innocent.

Who will defend the most vulnerable if we do not? I pray that we may never forget that their lives are immeasurably valuable, and I pray that more good people rise up to restrain the evil that has convinced far too many people that some lives are more valuable than others.

Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito (Latin: Do not give in to evil but proceed ever more boldly against it).


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

AMA Reconsidering Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide

american_medical_association_logoThe American Medical Association (AMA) will soon decide whether it will drop its stridently held position against physician-assisted suicide.

In June, the AMA asked its Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs to reexamine the association’s disapproval of the practice. It plans to make a final decision during its 2017 national conference.

The AMA has long opposed physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, believing these practices to be “fundamentally inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer.” It most recently reaffirmed its opposition to physician-assisted suicide in the newest edition of its Code of Medical Ethics, which was adopted earlier this summer.

Other medical associations – including the California Medical Association, the Oregon Medical Association, and the American Medical Students Association – take a neutral stance on the issue of physician-assisted suicide.

A majority (54%) of American doctors support physician-assisted suicide, according to a 2014 Medscape survey of 21,513 American and European doctors.

Five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) currently allow some form of physician-assisted suicide. In Washington State last year, there were 176 “participants” who received lethal medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act, according to state records.

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide are often motivated by misguided compassion. Arguments for physician-assisted suicide fail to recognize other more humane forms of treatment, as well as the inherent dignity and value of the terminally ill.

Instead of prescribing deadly drugs to end a patient’s life, physicians can more aggressively work to alleviate a patient’s pain and suffering through better palliative and hospice care.

Patients seeking physician-assisted suicide often suffer from depression and loneliness. This provides families and ministries with the opportunity to care for the dying, fulfilling intergenerational and communal duties by giving emotional support to terminally ill patients.

Physician-assisted suicide creates the perception that the terminally ill and elderly are burdens on their families and the medical system. It denies the most fundamental of rights – the right to life – and violates the basic principles of natural law and human dignity.

Life is an invaluable gift. Society looks to doctors for lifesaving medical care. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians for millennia, dictates that they “do no harm.”

The American Medical Association should remain faithful to the oath taken by its members and reject efforts to change its position on this critical issue.


This post was originally published by the Family Policy Institute of Washington.

Me Before You, Disabilities, and Suicide

21deffa3036682dc425a1e7d830d7fedMe Before You, a recently released film adaptation of a book by the same name, is garnering attention for promoting the notion that disabilities so greatly encumber life that physician-assisted suicide is a brave and reasonable solution to be celebrated.

The fictional book from which the film takes its story was written by English author Jojo Moyes.  The movie, which was released to theaters on June 3, is produced and distributed by Hollywood production giants MGM and Warner Brothers.

The story centers around Will, a young man from a wealthy family who had been injured in a motorcycle accident, and his caregiver Louisa, whose lack of ambition and humble lifestyle prevented her from experiencing all that life had to offer.

Though the two eventually fell in love, Will, who had attempted suicide months before, decides that life as a quadriplegic is not worth living. He receives a lethal dose of medication from a Swedish suicide clinic and leaves Louisa an inheritance to pursue her dreams.

Disability rights advocates believe that the movie’s ending, which celebrates the death of Will so that Lou might boldly live life with the inheritance he had left for her, implies that caring for Will would have been too great a burden on Louisa to make her life worthwhile.

“We are not ‘burdens’ whose best option is to commit suicide,” said John Kelly, regional director of Not Dead Yet, a national organization that opposes assisted suicide and euthanasia. “No one’s suicide should be treated as noble and inspirational. Our suicides should be viewed as tragedies like anyone else’s.”

Responding to criticism, Thea Sharrock, the film’s director, said, “This is a brave ending. It’s too easy to do it the other way. But this way… this is the more interesting way.” The movie, according to Sharrock, is “about how important the right to choose is.”

Thankfully, under Washington law, Will would have been unable to pursue the doctor-assisted suicide that he received in the film. Though Washington voters decided in favor of the Washington Death with Dignity Act (Initiative 1000) in 2008, the law requires that those seeking to end their life must be terminally ill patients with less than six months to live.

That a major Hollywood film is celebrating the suicide of a disabled man speaks loudly about the deteriorating moral condition of American culture. Generations ago, political philosophers like John Locke and William Blackstone, both of whom greatly influenced the philosophical ideas of the American founding, argued that suicide violated natural law and should therefore be illegal.

In his Second Treatise on Government, John Locke wrote,

“We are all the property of him who made us, and he made us to last as long as he chooses, not as long as we choose.”

Regarding the unnatural and illegal nature of suicide, William Blackstone wrote in his legal Commentaries,

“[N]o man has a power to destroy life, but by commission from God, the author of it: and, as the suicide is guilty of a double offense; one spiritual, in invading the prerogative of the Almighty, and rushing into his immediate presence uncalled for; the other temporal, against the king, who has an interest in the preservation of all his subjects; the law has therefore ranked this among the highest, crimes, making it a peculiar species of felony, a felony committed on oneself.”

Until the last few decades, most states, influenced by the philosophy of Locke and Blackstone, classified the act of suicide as a felony.

How have things changed since then. By the end of this year, five states (Washington, Oregon, Montana, California, and Vermont) will allow some form of doctor-assisted suicide. According to Washington state records, in 2014 there were 176 “participants” who received medication from doctors to end their lives under the authority of the Washington Death with Dignity Act.

Contrary to what the Me Before You director says, suicide is anything but “brave.” Every single person, regardless of the disabilities and challenges they face, has inherent value and is created in the image of their Creator. Suicide, even when assisted by doctors, robs society of the incredible potential for good offered by each of its victims.

This post was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington: http://www.fpiw.org/blog/2016/06/06/new-movie-celebrates-suicide-insults-disabled/