A woman with terminal cancer applies for insurance for $4000/mo. medication to treat her illness. Her insurance turns her down, but informs her that they would be happy to pay for her doctor-assisted suicide instead.
On paper, doctor-assisted suicide sounds like a natural extension of our right to life – our right to live our own lives as we see fit. But if you are a proponent of doctor-assisted suicide, there are plenty of situations like these that need to be considered. For instance, should doctor-assisted suicide be banned as a recommended treatment for providers and insurers, so that everyone who wants to continue their lives have every chance to do so?
For example, nearly half of doctor-assisted suicide patients reported doing so not because of physical distress, but because of psychological distress. According to the NY Times,
“This makes it look less like a good death in the face of unremitting pain, and more like plain old suicide.”
But what is ‘plain old suicide?’ Plain old suicide is not weakness or failure. Plain old suicide is a response to immense psychological suffering, demonstrated to be as painful as (or more painful than) physical suffering. Ask anyone who has survived suicidal ideation, and they’ll tell you it was the most difficult thing they’ve done. People commit plain old suicide because they think it’s the only way to let their suffering end.
This illuminates why the majority of people who seek doctor-assisted suicide are depressed. It’s hard to say anything else when a desire to die is a diagnostic criteria of major depressive disorder. Major depressive disorder is a common response to many terminal illness, emotional life events such as divorce or death of people close, or of other life conditions. Doctor-assisted suicide legislation has to effectively delineate between treatable and untreatable major depressive disorder.
This is significant, because if you’re in favor of people’s right to end their own life in these conditions, this right extends to children as well. Children of any age. The guardians, as the right-bearers of children’s rights, would then have the legal proxy to decide whether or not their children can exercise their right to life in this way. This right would extend all the way to the unborn, such as those who are diagnosed with debilitating disorders.
This is not to tell you what to believe or not believe – this is only to communicate that these issues are connected, and that they are not as simple as they appear to be.