Editors Note: The Connecticut legislature just killed an assisted-suicide bill in committee, without even giving our representatives a chance to vote on it. This strikes me as a misguided example of what the term “pro-life” means ... or should mean. BTW ... is it just my imagination that the word “family” in the name of any organization is conservative code for “right wing”? This article was written in response to a Letter to the Editor in several local newspapers.

Pro-Lifers Kill Off Assisted Suicide


For the zealots, pro-life means more than just being anti-choice on abortion. The urge to control the life of everyone around them from the womb to the grave helps explain why Connecticut House Bill 6645, which would have legalized doctor-assisted suicide, died in the legislature’s Public Health Committee, without even coming to a vote.

Most pro-lifers are Republicans; however, their mantra that all life is sacred is just a bit hypocritical, in that the Right is also in love with the death penalty. Democratic hypocrisy runs in reverse: Liberals who’ll defend third-trimester abortions are often equally zealous about preserving the lives of sociopaths sentenced to lethal injections. And conservatives and progressives alike object to wars only when they’re started by the president of the opposing party.

However, on the issue of assisted suicide, it’s hard to find backers on either side of the political divide. Supporters are typically libertarians, and Oregon and Washington are the only states where it’s legal. In November, even liberal Massachusetts rejected an assisted-suicide bill.

Mainstream America’s attitude is exemplified by Dr. Jeanne Hosinski’s recent letter to the Advocate (3/25/13) accusing proponents of a “lack of compassion.” This is just plain wrong. Both sides in this debate have their hearts in the right place; they simply disagree.

Equally wrong is Dr. Hosinski’s assertion that, with the repeal of Connecticut’s death penalty, assisted-suicide supporters are now trying “to inflict it on the sick and elderly.” Nothing in the proposed legislation “inflicts” anything on anybody. The measure drafted by state senator Ed Meyer (D.-Guilford) required two physicians to certify, in writing and under oath, that the patient making the request is likely to die within six months and is mentally competent to make the decision.

Three “life issues” create controversy in American public policy: abortion, capital punishment and assisted suicide. The first two are problematic because they involve ending the life of someone (or something, depending on your point of view) who hasn’t given consent. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, is a decision that affects only the life of the person freely making that choice.

In a free country, it’s hard to justify the state’s interest in protecting its citizens from themselves. You’d think that conservatives, who constantly pretend they want government out of our lives, would also want to deny the state the authority to dictate personal decisions concerning the duration of one’s life.

Dr. Hosinski wrote, “I never had a patient approach me to help them [sic] die.” However, if no one wanted an earlier, less painful death, then there’d be no demand for such legislation. Are end-of-life organizations such as Compassion & Choices operating out of malice? Was Dr. Gary Blick, who treats HIV patients, demonstrating an officious lack of compassion, when he expressed empathy for the terminally ill who “do not want to go through the suffering they have to go through”?

No one doubts the sincerity of disabled rights activists, such as Cathy Ludlum, who opposed HB 6645. Ms. Ludlum asked that lawmakers focus more on “giving people a good life than giving people a good death,” but the two are not mutually exclusive.

Along with many Catholic organizations, the right-wing Family Institute of Connecticut gloated on its website about the legislative committee’s decision to kill the bill. Director Peter Wolfgang urged lawmakers to support advanced pain management techniques instead, but how does one preclude the other?

Anyone who’s seen someone suffer with bone cancer knows pain management is often woefully insufficient. My favorite aunt, dying of lung cancer, stored up drugs in case the pain became too much to bear. She never used them, but the experience of dying patients in places where assisted suicide is legal is that they often take comfort from the knowledge they have the power to end their own suffering, even if they never avail themselves of that option. Why should anyone be denied this solace and this sense of control over what is, after all, his or her own life?

Governor Malloy cited the “societal and religious taboos” that make this issue controversial, but no one knows god’s will on this subject — it’s never even mentioned in the Bible — and America isn’t a theocracy yet anyway. Besides, this proposal wouldn’t have compelled anyone to violate his or her religious or personal beliefs. (Many of the bill’s supporters at the public hearing on the measure were clergymen, as well as doctors and nurses.)

Opponents often call assisted suicide “playing god, ” but isn’t making people suffer against their will more like playing god than permitting them to end their torment on their own terms? God would seem to have already cast his vote when he inflicted the terminal illness.

Evidently, the Family Institute feels godlike enough to advocate depriving dying patients of the freedom to exercise what could be the last real choice they’ll ever get to make. However, it’s un-American to deny the pursuit of happiness by taking away our liberty to control our own lives. Should this issue come up again, I hope our representatives take a more compassionate view of what it means to be pro-life.

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