In January, a 29-year-old Dutch woman, Aurelia Bowers, was killed by assisted suicide in the Netherlands. The young woman suffered from mental illness and had attempted suicide many times and described the years of living with mental illness as “torturous.” She was not terminally ill, but a 2002 Dutch law allows anyone to request voluntary euthanasia.
The Daily Mirror reports that Aurelia spent her final days touring the local crematorium, picking out her coffin, and imagining her friends and family grieving her after her death. All this is captured in a production by the Dutch media outlet RTL Nieuws, which followed Aurelia’s visit to the crematorium, being shown around “like a tourist almost,” and making other preparations for her death in the final days.
Most disturbingly, at several times in these recordings and on her social media accounts, Aurelia expressed anguish at the prospect of ending her life with the assistance of doctors. At one point she told her friends, “Damn, euthanasia is not easy… saying goodbye, waiting now on Friday…” She repeatedly qualified that she had not changed her mind, adding “don’t get me wrong, 1000000 % behind my decision but euthanasia is not an easy route.”
On January 26, Aurelia died by assisted suicide.
As a society, we cannot endorse the killing of a young woman in great mental anguish. Her tragic story is a warning to the rest of the world: where assisted suicide is legal, vulnerable patients will be killed. Some argue that suffering patients want to die, but this is not the case. Aurelia stated she was not choosing death but “an end to suffering.” As Pro-Life bio-ethicist Wesley J. Smith has noted many times, the error of assisted suicide is to think that we are ending suffering by killing the sufferer. Patients need help coping with suffering, not death.
The reasons patients opt for suicide are often the very same reasons that otherwise healthy individuals might choose to take their own life in a time of crisis. Studies show that terminally ill patients do not choose assisted suicide because of pain, as many people suggest, but because of depression, feelings of hopelessness, and fears of becoming a burden to others.
Therefore, patients are hurting; they are not free. They are not free and making an autonomous choice as anti-Life advocates claim. Patients seeking suicide are not choosing freely because their choices are being dictated by fear. In a similar way, abortion advocates call themselves “pro-choice,” when in fact most women who choose abortion do so precisely because they feel they have no other choice.
Pro-Life advocates have long warned about the dangers of legalized assisted suicide. Deadly legislation that allows doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions or administer lethal injections is often billed as “compassionate” by anti-Life activists. They claim that such laws empower patients suffering from a terminal illness to make a choice to “die with dignity.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
As Pro-Lifers predicted, legalized assisted suicide has not empowered patients but stripped vulnerable patients of the Right to Life. As one doctor stated, the choice to die touted by assisted suicide activists can become a duty to die for financially insecure patients facing a difficult diagnosis.
Although assisted suicide legislation is often crafted with supposed “safeguards” to ensure that only those patients truly facing a terminal condition can access assisted suicide and to ensure that vulnerable patients will not be coerced, the reality is that these safeguards are often meaningless. In fact, a report earlier this year showed that assisted suicide laws are purposely written with broad and undefined language, which means that virtually anyone could be eligible for assisted suicide under even the so-called conservative assisted suicide laws that have numerous safeguards.
Nowhere is the anti-Life worldview implicit in these laws so obvious as the state-sanctioned killing of people struggling with mental illness, like Aurelia. Assisted suicide advocates are moving toward openly advocating for assisted suicide for anyone for any reason. This is the unmasked anti-Life position implicit in even “conservative” assisted suicide laws. Every assisted suicide law sanctions the killing of some human beings and devalues all human Life.