How would legalizing assisted suicide help the downtrodden, poor, and discriminated against?
It wouldn’t, which is one reason why legalizing doctor-prescribed death is mostly a cause of the well off, for whom access to quality health care is not a problem. To be blunt, these folks know what they want for themselves and don’t care who else gets hurt.
But for the destitute, the elderly, people with disabilities — the multitude who can’t access quality care — it is a tar pit. That is why advocates for the poor, disability rights activists, and civil rights groups like LULAC oppose legalizing assisted suicide. It is why the philosophy of hospice — which is about caring, not killing — rejects giving patients overdoses of poison to make them dead.
Now South African anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu has come out for assisted suicide. From the story in The Guardian:
Writing in the Observer, the 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop, revered as the "moral conscience" of South Africa, says that laws that prevent people being helped to end their lives are an affront to those affected and their families.
He also condemns as "disgraceful" the treatment of his old friend Nelson Mandela, who was kept alive through numerous painful hospitalizations and forced to endure a photo stunt with politicians shortly before his death at 95.
Tutu, who calls for a "mind shift" in the right to die debate, writes: "I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life — but not at any cost."
Shame! If Mandela was treated that badly, it wasn’t because assisted suicide is illegal. It is because he was used for political purposes. No one forces people to accept extreme measures to remain alive. The Catholic Church does not require it, for example, as illustrated by the death of Pope John Paul II.
More to the point, South Africa is riddled with destitution. About one in five people are HIV positive — a staggering 5.6 million were living with HIV at the end of 2001, including 460,000 children! Until recently, the official government policy thwarted HIV prevention and the bulk still can’t get quality care.
Multitudes don’t even have potable water. Good palliative care in that country is not accessible for most. How can Tutu even begin to talk about assisted suicide in such a catastrophe for his people? It is a betrayal of the poor and destitute of his own country.
The people are not in the streets demanding the right to be killed by a doctor. They want ready access to a doctor! They want decent medical care.
How much research has he put into the subject? Does he know the horrors such a law would open to society’s devalued and despairing? Has he seen what is happening in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland? Does he know — or care — that in Oregon poor people have been refused life-extending chemotherapy under health-care rationing — but offered payment for assisted suicide by the state?
Tutu’s call serves the desires of the elite at a terrible cost to the downtrodden he supposedly champions. He is using his considerable moral authority in a way that, by definition, devalues human life.