While Trump vs. Clinton is the contest on most Americans’ minds this election year, an even more important struggle has quietly emerged which could significantly impact our nation: that of life vs. death.
Earlier this week, the Washington, D.C., City Council voted to advance the “Death with Dignity” Act, legislation which would make D.C. one of six American jurisdictions allowing legalized physician-assisted suicide. The bill now moves on to Mayor Muriel Bowser, who a spokesman said “expects the bill to become law.”
And in Colorado, Proposition 106 is on the ballot this year, a “medical aid in dying” initiative that’s modeled after legislation that was debated and rebuffed in the state legislature. If the initiative succeeds, Colorado would become the third state to legalize assisted suicide by popular vote.
The assisted suicide movement caught fire after Brittany Maynard publicly declared her intention to end her life with help from her doctor, with the blessing of the Oregon state government. Proponents of this self-styled “death with dignity” argue that it is based out of compassion and respect for the individual seeking death, because they are preserved from further suffering in the face of a terminal illness.
However, unfortunately, recent news has shown the opposite. In California, where assisted suicide is legal, we learned last month that a patient’s chemotherapy treatment was no longer covered by her insurer — suicide pills were considered instead a more financially viable option for both the patient and her medical insurance provider.
This reeks of cold calculation rather than human compassion. In the face of choosing to invest funds into prolonging and potentially curing a patient of an otherwise terminal illness, insurers now have a financial incentive to recommend death instead, and doctors will face increasing pressure to violate their oath to “do no harm.” Thus, the assisted suicide movement has contributed to the very cause they seek a response to. If we want people to feel as if they are not burdens on their loved ones, why would we legitimize death as an option for them?
Assisted suicide laws, like the one on the ballot in Colorado, blur the lines between what is acceptable and what is not. I do not question the motives of people supporting these measures, but rather their vision regarding how this legislation impacts their loved ones. The logic is that it offers a resolution to terminally ill patients’ pain, but when put into practice, we see that it capitalizes on their pain, literally.
There is a better way. We have a moral imperative to encourage our family and friends facing deadly illness to resist despair and embrace life. This is and should be a labor of love: that we continue to support each other in the face of such pain. Combating assisted suicide laws isn’t just a matter of principle, but a matter of choosing hope for a full life, where people are more than their illnesses, and their value is not hinged on a dollar.
Kevin Dawson is the Operations Manager at American Principles Project.