Self-appointed suicide guides will always ignore the law

A common argument for the legalisation of assisted suicide is that it will stop people from helping spouses, relatives and friends to die illegally. It will make the whole right-to-die issue very transparent.

But not everyone in the right-to-die league plays by the same rules. In the latest post on the Good Death Society Blog, the president of the Final Exit Network, Janis Landis, says that any law permitting assisted suicide, such as Oregon’s or California’s, no matter how welcome or how liberally interpreted, will inevitably exclude some people from being “assisted”.

That’s why, she says, there will always be a need for groups like the Final Exit Network:

And so with the hoped-for expansion of PAD [physician-assisted dying] laws, the need for our services will be even greater.  And of course, our original mission, providing information to those seeking end-of-life options remains urgent. As you know, all the PAD laws require a prognosis of death within six months. Those suffering the most, from neurological diseases such as ALS and Parkinson’s, will find no relief under those laws. And it is particularly cruel for them because the congratulations and celebrations upon the law’s passage have raised hopes which are then dashed when the strict limitations of the law are made clear. We remain the only DWD organization in the United States providing information to these desperate individuals.  

So is there a place for FEN in the wake of more PAD laws? If we want these laws to have practical meaning, if we want to encourage improvements in the existing legislative template, and if we want to reach those excluded by the law, the answer is a resounding YES. We are the only organization that provides the missing half of the loaf. Without it, the law remains, for most, a cruel illusion, inapplicable and/or out of reach when people actually seek to use it.

Members of FEN have been charged several times with assisting suicides. Its “mission” is to “Educate qualified individuals in practical, peaceful ways to end their lives, offer a compassionate bedside presence, and defend their right to choose." In practical terms, this means that FEN "exit guides" visit “clients” who want to die and help them to commit suicide, often by tying a plastic hood over their heads and filling it with helium or nitrogen. FEN and its members have been prosecuted in Arizona, Georgia, and Minnesota.

And this happens regardless of the legal status of assisted suicide. FEN’s position is that “Any competent person unbearably suffering an intractable medical condition has the option to die legally and peacefully.” Note “has the option”, not “should have the option”.

So, what FEN’s president is suggesting is that legalisation will not stop right-to-die ideologues from their self-appointed mission to kill people. This is nothing new. In the United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands similar groups play cat-and-mouse with the police if they decide that someone needs “deliverance”. Euthanasia fanatics believe that they are above the law. They broke it before legalisation; why shouldn’t they continue to break it afterwards?   

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.


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