In Defense of Life

If you listened to this week’s Conservative Refuge Radio, you heard an extended discussion of Maryland’s proposed euthanasia law.  The national pro-suicide movement has been a regular topic of Conservative Refuge Radio for months and we have discussed the cases of John Rehm, Brittany Maynard and others.  I have shared the work of leading pro-life voices on the issue, particularly that of National Review’s Wesley J. Smith, one of the most eloquent and passionate voices fighting against the pro-suicide movement that found its way to Maryland and this year’s legislative session.

The efforts in Annapolis to pass an Oregon styled doctor assisted suicide regime are part an parcel of a national organized political effort led by a group known by the euphemistic “Compassion and Choices” but more honestly branded with their former name The Hemlock Society.  Appealing to emotion while lacking reason, using disenguity and hiding their true agenda, the pro-suicide forces seek to upturn Maryland’s laws recognizing the equal value of all human life and to pervert the medical establishment. Most disturbingly, some self-styled conservatives and libertarians have taken the twisted and truly evil view that suicide is not a tragedy but a right to be embraced and celebrated and that the brave new euthanasia worlds of Europe and Oregon are really utopias of freedom.

These efforts need to be forcibly opposed by those who believe that every human life is sacred and valuable whether the life be of a depressed teen, a famous actor or a frightened and despairing patient with a terminal disease.  History is replete with warnings of the evils that lie ahead when societies take the path of death and devaluing even some human lives, even in the service of purported “compassion.”

Not fifteen years ago, Maryland lawmakers, like others throughout the nation, reaffirmed in our state’s laws that all human lives are to be protected.  They rejected the pro-suicide movement’s efforts to corrupt the medical profession, as championed by those like Jack Kevorkian.  The pro-suicide supporters, however, have never given up their dark dreams  of Belgian styled institutional euthanasia throughout the United States. Rather, they have regrouped and sought to repackage their message.

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If you look at the stories of John Rehm, Brittany Maynard, or those being used to promote doctor assisted suicide in Maryland, you see a clear pattern.  A sympathetic person suffering from a debilitating or fatal disease despairing their circumstances and a family or loved ones convinced that the answer to the suffering of their loved one is death.  Proponents assert that to kill one’s self in the face of such circumstances is to “die with dignity”.

But the supporters of suicide know they cannot allow the force of their arguments to win the day.  That is why The Hemlock Society changed its name to the euphemistic Compassion and Choices.  It is why every proponent wishes to change the nomenclature and call suicide something other than what it is.

It is why the bill in Maryland, like in other states, mandates that doctors who kill their patients lie on the death certificate about the cause of death.  In California, it is estimate that the suicide rate would spike by a third if such a provision were not included.

It is why the pro-suicide movement seeks to employ sympathetic champions, such as Richard Isreal, rather than rise or fall on the merits of their own arguments.  As the Baltimore Sun candidly admitted,

His friends convinced him that the measure would be more likely to pass in his memory than on the strengths of its arguments alone.

So why, if the proponents of this measure are on the side of the angels, must then engage is such obvious chicanery?

The reason, in part, is because they know that most Americans and Marylanders don’t truly agree with their position if they examine to any degree.  Polls may vary, largely depending on how the question is asked, but, as Wesley J. Smith points out, the only polls that matter are at the ballot box.  The last time this issue was on the ballot was in 2012 in Massachusetts, hardly a conservative bastion, where it was defeated.  That defeat was lead by the widow of liberal lion of Senate, Ted Kennedy.

So pro-life conservatives should take heart and stand boldly on their convictions understanding that such a position is not only right but good politics as well.

Which brings me to the hypocrisy on suicide.  On the Conservative Refuge in October, I related a pair of stories on the topic.  The first, an extended expose by USA Today talking about the lack of mental health treatment for those with depression.  In the wake of the suicide of Robin Williams, the paper noted

Americans are far more likely to kill themselves than each other. Homicides have fallen by half since 1991, but the U.S. suicide rate keeps climbing. The nearly 40,000 American lives lost each year make suicide the nation’s 10th-leading cause of death, and the second-leading killer for those ages 15-34. Each suicide costs society about $1 million in medical and lost-work expenses and emotionally victimizes an average of 10 other people.

On that same show, I mentioned a story from Wesley J. Smith noting how The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices was using the tragic situation of Brittany Maynard to promote their pro-suicide agenda.  As Mr. Smith put it

Assisted suicide movement leaders are always on the lookout for attractive cases to further their cause, and clearly believe they have one in Maynard because of her youth, beauty, and the tragedy of her condition. -The movement has obviously orchestrated an expensive and very well planned media campaign to use her planned suicide to force open the door to doctor-prescribed death. I mean the story is all over the place. That doesn’t happen by accident. – More than that–and most egregiously–by validating and extolling her self-termination, assisted suicide advocates make it harder for her to back off the ledge.

Smith’s article went on to list other similar cases and how this effort was not being responsibly being reported in the media.

So why, when suicide a national epidemic more devastating than homicide, are there those so emboldened and even sanctimonious about promoting doctor assisted suicide?

Ultimately, proponents fall into one of two categories, neither good.

The first, as I mentioned above, are the true suicide supporters.  The warped libertarian who believes that the right to life includes as a corollary a right to suicide.  The amoral leftist who rejects entirely the notion that all human lives have value or are deserving of equal protection, they include the eugenist, the abortion on demand supporter and the cold blooded technocrat that sees terminally ill people as having no value worth their drain on society’s medical resources.  They embrace the concept of “autonomy” which provides that anyone who wants to kill themselves should.  They may argue now for limited assisted suicide for terminal patients but their agenda, or the logic of their arguments, is not so limited.

This group needs to be opposed with all of the ardor and energy that the pro-life community can muster and exposed for the evil that they are.

The second group has been convinced that suicide is only a tragedy for some.  Either willingly or duped, these supporters have embraced the notion that the lives of those suffering or with a terminal disease simply have less value and that, while they don’t like the idea of suicide, they have accepted that it is an appropriate response to pain and disease.  This group is the one that is being persuaded in the current debate.  Many in this group were horrified by Kevorkian and would be outraged by the abuses routinely occurring in the Netherlands and Belgium.

This group needs to know the story of Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup who were denied life extending cancer treatment by Oregon bureaucrats who offered, instead, to pay for their suicide.  They need to understand that, what is being sold as individual choices of compassion never to affect them personally, will and have already lead to a dark fusion of socialized medicine and institutionalized medical euthanasia.

This group needs to understand that a case where anyone so despairing that they would contemplate suicide is a tragedy and that true compassion is to meet this despair with affirmance that the lives of those suffering matter and that they have people who care for them enough to see such care as a gift.  I do not judge those who fear pain or death and contemplate suicide, I have true compassion for them.

As Wesley J. Smith put it,

“What I will judge is how we respond when one of our beloved brothers or sisters goes into a suicidal desire. And I’m not going to be the one to play the game of pretend that it is not suicide. We need to have a better response to people and let them know that we want them and treasure them until they take their last breath.”

I take great comfort in the fact that we have a Governor in Larry Hogan who truly understands the stakes of this issue and who has been clear in his opposition to this measure.  As Governor Hogan has said,

“I believe in the sanctity of human life, and I believe a physician’s role is to save lives, not terminate them.” 

We will continue to discuss this issue on the Conservative Refuge and support life here at Red Maryland and we urge each of you who agree to join us in this most critical fight.



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