Candor in talk of end of life
Recent issues of local papers have carried letters from writers supporting the so-called “death with dignity” bill. What is missing from these letters is the one element essential to full debate of a controversial issue: candor. The writers speak of “personal option,” or “the freedom of the individual to direct his own life,” and no one mentions the elephant in the living room: physician-assisted suicide. The “end-of-life choice” under debate would be a legally constituted right to commit suicide by ingesting an overdose of barbiturates prescribed by a doctor.
Now suicide can be a private matter, if it is done without consultation or help. But if the state and the medical community collaborate in providing a suicide service, even a restricted one, then it is very much a public matter. Here are the larger issues we need to discuss openly: shall the state of Vermont pre-approve suicide for some citizens and authorize the medical profession to facilitate it? What would be the consequence for vulnerable populations — the elderly, the chronically ill, the disabled, and the depressed — of thus lifting the suicide taboo? Is personal expediency the basis of sound public policy?
I ask the supporters of this measure to call a spade a spade so that we can have a truly honest discussion of such a serious matter.
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