As of tomorrow, June 9th, California will officially permit physicians to murder their patients by assisting the suicide of their patients. California becomes the fifth state to permit physician-assisted suicide.
Propenents claim that the rule’s guidelines put strict safeguards in place and will prevent abuse. As experience shows, once assisted suicide is permitted, it does not remained contained. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observes that the history of societies that have sanctioned euthanasia in the past is not an encouraging one. Assisted suicide is truly a Pandora’s Box.
Perhaps the most basic duty of a government is its responsibility to recognize and respect the sanctity of the lives of its citizens. Now, some will object to this. After all, they will reason, it is my life, to do with as I wish. From whence do I have a responsibility to carry on living, even in the face of pain?
The answer, however, is that no one’s life is only their own. Every person has responsibilities and duties; to God, to their families, their friends, to their communities, and to their country. The matter of assisted suicide is not a purely personal issue, because the way life is valued affects us all. If society accepts suicide as a morally acceptable choice, we all suffer, because it means that society does not view all life as sacred. Personal autonomy must sometimes give way to our ethical responsibilities to our neighbors.
But what of those who do indeed suffer from incurable pain? In truth, they have our deepest empathy for the tragic situation in which they are placed. Perhaps they might even find comfort in understanding that their suffering is not pointless, but is, rather, a sacred sacrifice helping preserve society’s sanctification of life.