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In California, Assisted Suicide for the Institutionalized Mentally Ill


In my regular First Things column, I expand my analysis, first offered here, of a rule granting California’s institutionalized mentally ill an enforceable right to die if they are diagnosed with a terminal condition.

The law, which is a travesty delivered by bureaucratic promulgation, claims to protect those with a mental impairments. But the regulators smash that seeming protection into shards. As I write there:

These are people denied their very freedom due to diagnosed severe mental disease! They are undoubtedly being treated with powerful psychotropic medications. In what universe could they possibly be deemed “not to be suffering from impaired judgment due to a mental disorder”?

The ironies are disturbing. For example, if a patient is hospitalized because he is acutely suicidal from deep depression, no court would free him for the purpose of committing suicide. Indeed, in such a circumstance, preventing that lethal act is the very point of the institutionalization! But if that same suicidal patient can show that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he can be freed for that same purpose — even if the reason he wants to die is the depression and not the terminal diagnosis.

The regulation requires the state to facilitate the death if the patient is not freed by a court for suicide, illustrating the authoritarianism of the technocratic state:

This boggles the mind. The regulation puts the state in the business of directly causing the deaths of mentally ill patients under court-ordered custodial care.

The law goes beyond merely legalizing assisted suicide; it elevates euthanasia access for the institutionalized mentally ill into a court-enforceable right — all without public debate, passage through the usual legislative process, or so much as a news story to alert the people of California that the scope of their new assisted-suicide law has been radically extended.

Can you imagine? The “death with dignity” movement is driving us out of our collective minds.

Photo credit: © sudok1 —
Cross-posted at The Corner.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.



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