The Swiss Option: Assisted Suicide

A man killed himself, and a Swiss organization helped. On May 10, 104-year-old Australian scientist Dave Goodall died at a Lifecircle assisted suicide facility in Switzerland. The organization set up most of the process. Then Goodall himself, by law, administered the fatal dose of barbiturates.

Such “suicide tourism” is not new, although most countries “lag behind Switzerland,” in Goodall’s words. Dignitas, another assisted suicide organization in Switzerland, has recorded that over 2,100 people from all over the world have committed suicide with assistance in the historically peaceful European country.

Euthanasia in Europe

Although conservatives in the country have tried to outlaw the practice, Switzerland remains one of the most lenient countries in their policy on assisted suicide.

In the rest of the continent, the European Court of Human Rights has consistently upheld euthanasia practices. This of course leads to such horror stories as this, in which a protesting woman was held down while she was killed. And such laws allow for “death with dignity” for any person. Even the assisted suicide organization “Exit” admits that healthy young people can also legally seek assistance in suicide in Switzerland. To the north, Dutch doctors euthanized a 29-year-old woman just earlier this year.

Back in Switzerland, the Catholic church has not been silent. In 2016, Swiss Bishop Vitus Huonder of Chur told priests in that country not to administer last rites to patients seeking assisted suicide. The Catholic church continues to view euthanasia as murder.

Dignity and Comfort

While discussing Alfie Evans’ case last month, Ben Shapiro spent some time delineating the difference between comfort and dignity. Shapiro’s correct that death with comfort can be objectively determined, while dignity is something deeper and relative to other elements in human life. Shapiro is also correct that many in Europe use these terms interchangeably, a dangerous precedent.

It is not the role of the state to determine what is “death with dignity.” Nor is it the role of the state to allow or facilitate such death. It is the role of the state to protect its citizens from those who would harm them. Nonprofit organizations, by and large, should be free to pursue their chosen purpose without interference from the state. But the government should stop the injustice done here by organizations like LifeCircle, Dignitas, and Exit.

Meanwhile, we in the United States of America should guard against the thinking that leads to euthanasia. We need to cherish all life, revivify our understanding of dignity, and sharpen our understanding of the state’s role. Otherwise, assisted suicide, already legal in seven of our states, will become a new and horrifying norm of our society.