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Here in California, SB128 has made it out of the Senate and is heading to the Assembly for debate and a vote. SB128 is a bill to make doctor-assisted suicide legal in California.
When people think about this issue, the scenario that comes up always is that of terminally ill patients who want to end their pain and suffering. You can find support for this position even among Republicans who are older and/or libertarian. The coalition opposed to the measure is constantly struggling to point out that assisted suicide on the basis of personal choice is an argument for suicide-on-demand. You can look at this piece to see the abuse taking place in Belgium, but it also happens here, where miscommunication between doctors leads to one endorsing suicide and another suggesting further treatment.
My colleague, Wayne Johnson, wrote this piece for the Flash Report — a blog of California-based issues — responding to the libertarian argument. It’s a quick read but here’s an excerpt:
“When someone is diagnosed as having less than six months to live, why shouldn’t they be given the choice to end their life on their own terms instead of enduring months of pain and suffering?”
That’s a straightforward question, and it deserves an answer. After all, whose life is it anyway?
The problem, of course, is that once the issue is reduced to a subjective personal choice we are, for all intents and purposes, out of the suicide prevention business.
We have to ask, since suicide is already legal in California, why the push to put society’s stamp of approval on it? After all, if it’s really just a personal choice, why should the rest of care one way or the other?
And yet, we do.
We care about the sick, the poor and the unemployed. We care about the heartbroken teenager, and the kids whose parents are going through an ugly divorce. Our heroes are the good Samaritans and the rescuers, those who place themselves at risk for others. Those who care. And if we deserve to be called a just and compassionate people, we will continue to not only care, but to intervene.