Here's another in a series of columns (see also here and here) on physician assisted suicide (a question on the Massachusetts ballot this November 6) from the blog of Cardinal Sean O'Malley:
The slippery slope of assisted suicideLinked Assisted Suicide Posts
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide tell us that there is no danger of a slippery slope, that in Oregon the cases are “not that numerous” and are “carefully monitored.” I hope that reasonable people will question these claims and reflect further on whether a law with insufficient safeguards is what we want in the commonwealth.
Slippery slope arguments involve small decisions that lead to undesirable outcomes that never would have been supported at the outset. Often, it is impossible to prove that one small step will have significant negative effects, but common sense allows reasonable people to judge the likelihood that a sequence of events that have happened in one place are likely to happen in another place in a similar way.
Question 2 proposes to allow physician-assisted suicide for those diagnosed with a terminal illness with six months or less to live. Many groups are concerned that, if passed, it not only would be harmful in itself, but could lead to unintended tragic outcomes. (1) Elder advocates are concerned that it could become a new form of elder abuse. (2) Advocates for the disabled are concerned it could lead to “quality of life” standards in our society, where those with a lower perceived quality of life receive fewer benefits or protections. (3) Doctors and nurses are concerned it could lead to a lower “quality of care” for those at the end of life. (4) Doctors are also concerned that it could undermine the doctor-patient relationship. (5) Ethicists are concerned that it could lead to a devaluing of human life. (6) Suicide-prevention organizations are concerned that the state legally allowing suicide for one group (those with terminal diagnoses of fewer than six months to live) could lead to increased suicide rates for the rest of the population. (7) Those who have studied the evolution of this matter in the Netherlands are concerned that assisted suicide could lead, first to voluntary euthanasia (requesting direct help to end one’s life), and then to involuntary euthanasia (where a third-party determines that, if the patient were in his right mind, he would choose euthanasia).
Asserting that something could happen is not the same as stating that something will happen. Here are some facts that lead the groups above to be concerned. Please judge for yourself whether you agree with the risk that one or all of these concerns might occur in Massachusetts if we took the first step this Election Day by voting to legalize assisted suicide.
(Be sure to link to Cardinal Sean's blog for "the rest of the story...")
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