Can you be anti-abortion, consider yourself pro-life, and in good conscience support euthanasia and assisted suicide? Some would argue that you can. The difference, they say, is that in abortion the victim (the preborn baby) has no say in the matter. However, with euthanasia or assisted suicide, the person being killed has chosen death. In that case, it is their body, and no one else is being harmed.
But the argument is not that simple. In fact, many of the points made in favor of legalized abortion are used by supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide. The issues of life and death are one in the same.
For example, supporters of euthanasia and assisted suicide will often use the same suffering argument used by supporters of abortion. They will argue that people with dementia or Alzheimer’s are in a serious state of suffering, and it would be better that they die than live with the pain. The argument is the same one used to justify the targeting of babies with Down syndrome for abortion as they say that living with Down syndrome is a terrible affliction and it would be better to end the suffering now than letting people live with Down syndrome (even though people with Down syndrome report high rates of happiness and talk beautifully about their love of life).
Once we start saying that we can “ease suffering” for the benefit of the people we are killing, we start down a slippery slope. And at the heart of assessment of “quality of life” or “suffering” is a judgment often first made by others who don’t want the hard work of overcoming obstacles.
People who are targeted for euthanasia or assisted suicide too often are pressured to make a choice (for their own good, they are told) by those who communicate that the only worthwhile lives are those lived by healthy, strong, active individuals with a list of abilities favored by society. People are not valued for their humanity, but for their presumed contribution to those making a judgment call of other’s worth.
But, being pro-life means supporting the dignity of every human being. This includes not encouraging the killing of human beings just because their life may be physically difficult or because they need help.
For those depressed by difficult circumstances, the right response is our encouragement and assistance, not an argument in favor of their death. People dealing with depression in face of illness, injury or impairment need those around them to affirm their value rather than advocating for a quick end.
It’s interesting that just like with abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide can be applied to others under the control of those making the life-ending decision. In recent years we’ve seen stories of insurance companies that won’t play for life-extending treatment, but will pay for life-ending drugs. We should be troubled with heirs to a person’s resources arguing that money should not be “wasted” on treatment. The profit motive of the ones who argue for someone else’s deaths should not be dismissed lightly.
As people near the end of their lives, realistically, humane treatments and compassionate care will most likely be needed. Pro-lifers can and should support options such as hospice and other measures that will help provide comfort to people in their last days. We can and should support access to medicine that helps ease suffering and people should be allowed to discuss at what point extraordinary measures should be declined. However, intentionally killing someone can never be compatible with a pro-life worldview.