Earlier this month, New Mexico became the ninth state to legalize assisted suicide. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that legalizes assisted suicide for patients deemed terminally ill. Touted as providing “options” and being “humane” the law puts vulnerable patients at risk and tasks doctors, who have vowed to care for and protect Life, to cooperate with killing.
Grisham used many of the buzzwords pedaled by anti-Life activists when she spoke in favor of the bill, saying, “Dignity in dying — making the clear-eyed choice to prevent suffering at the end of a terminal illness — is a self-evidently humane policy.” Grisham’s aims are noble, but the legislation she signed does not support them.
Far from giving people options, legal assisted suicide leads families and hospitals to push vulnerable patients to opt for death instead of undergoing treatment or continuing care. Studies show that the reason patients seek assisted suicide is not pain or an unbearable medical condition. Rather feelings of despair and fear of becoming a burden to others, the reasons that any person might be driven to thoughts of suicide, are cited as the reasons people consider assisted suicide.
Patients rights advocates spoke out against the legislation in New Mexico. Matt Vallière, executive director of Patients Rights Action Fund, noted that “legalized assisted suicide in any form will only make it even harder for people with disabilities, people of color, and the economically disadvantaged to obtain quality medical care.”
The reason for this is that many chronic conditions and experimental treatments can be costly. Assisted suicide, a short regimen of lethal medication, is cost-effective and rapid. Already, patients in states with legal assisted suicide have been denied viable treatment but been approved for assisted suicide.
Disturbingly, the anti-Life activists are aware of this, yet refuse to address the serious ethical issues. The deceptively named organization Death With Dignity, which promotes assisted suicide, attempted to “refute misinformation” regarding stories of patients denied potentially life-saving treatment by their insurance while the medication for assisted suicide was covered. Instead of refuting these supposedly misleading stories, the anti-Life group confirmed that treatment for patients like Stephanie Packer were denied while lethal medicine was covered by insurance.
According to the anti-Life group this is acceptable because the deadly pills were not immediately offered to Packer after learning that her life-saving treatment was not covered. How this distinction makes much of a difference is unclear. The stories about ill patients being denied care on the ground of cost is not misinformation but increasingly reality. In the current scheme of legal assisted suicide, inability to pay for life-saving treatment is considered an acceptable criteria for opted for suicide.
Additionally, a recent investigation in Canada found that patients were pressured to opt for assisted suicide. In response to the investigation, Dr. Ramona Coelho, who is opposed to assisted suicide, argued, “It is extremely important that doctors never say to the patient that they could be better off dead.” This is exactly the message that legal assisted suicide sends: some people’s lives are no longer worth living. Although our society strives to discourage suicide and protect Life, in some cases we actively encourage the taking of innocent human Life.
New Mexico’s Governor Grisham ironically praised the new legal assisted suicide for the “peace of mind and humanity this legislation provides.” As illustrated above, assisted suicide introduces significant pressure from doctors and hospitals, family and friends, to choose assisted suicide, a state of affairs that is not likely to promote “peace of mind.” Additionally, when some human lives are devalued and treated as expendable, all lives are at risk, and there is nothing humane about ignoring the sanctity of human Life.
In the wake of New Mexico’s anti-Life legislation, Pro-Life Texans should ensure that human Life is valued and protected at every stage, from conception to natural death. This begins by repealing the anti-Life 10-Day Law and supporting true death with dignity, which means never directly and intentionally ending a human Life.