The Battle Over Human Life
Senate Bill 311, allowing physician assisted suicide, has failed in the Maryland Senate. There was a tie (23-23). That's how close we came.
Proponents claim the bill, repeatedly brought before the legislature, would have provided comfort, assistance and choice to alert, terminally ill people likely to die naturally within six months without intervention. The bill would require physicians, charged in the Hippocratic Oath with doing no harm, to provide lethal medication to these sufferers.
As this bill was being considered, suicide had reached an all-time high in our country. Survivors of the Parkland and Sandy Hill school shootings have taken their lives only recently. We find these and other suicides very upsetting, and are actively seeking ways to help stem the tide. We are working as well to provide veterans the services they need to help them avoid suicide. We even consider the death penalty inhumane.
In countries where physician assisted suicide has been legal for years, laws have evolved well beyond what Maryland continues to consider now, requiring competent, alert people to consent to ending their lives prematurely, and are now entirely different.
During the 30 years physician assisted suicide has been legal in the Netherlands, it has evolved greatly. Now people chronically ill, mentally ill, suffering from psychological distress, or mental suffering, and even people over the age of 70 who are tired of living, can obtain help to kill themselves. People who cannot consent due to unconsciousness or dementia are being euthanized, under a "treatment plan" known as terminal sedation. Palliative (comfort) care is disappearing in these nations because "we have suicide" instead. The Netherlands also boasts of having eliminated the Down's syndrome gene from their population through abortion.
According to the January 2018 edition of National Review, one fourth of all deaths in the Netherlands were induced in 2017. Nineteen hundred people killed themselves, and 32,000 were euthanized. In our country, with the same percentages, the number of deaths would have been 90,000.
Make no mistake. The history of the past 30 years regarding physician assisted suicide, and the evolution of abortion laws in our country, make it perfectly clear that there is a "slippery slope" once the taking of human life becomes legal.
These laws are being made by people running amok under the delusion that killing people is helping them, and not fundamentally altering our society's view of the value of human life.
In American culture, the rights of individual human being have always been held sacred. Our constitution offers the right to life. We've gotten things very wrong at times, many believing Native Americans, people of color, and even fetuses are less than human
Fortunately, we have reached consensus and generally agree that born human beings have rights, some recent laws notwithstanding, no matter their color or religious persuasion. In regard to fetuses, we have yet to decide when one becomes a human being.
Serious consideration must be given before we step on the path that could well lead to human life being valued only when convenient. In terms of late term abortion, we may already be on that path.
Some considerations: Is human life of value, to individuals and to society? Is there value in providing comfort care and allowing natural death? Do the human lives of people with mental or physical handicaps, the elderly, or the sick have value that's worth the cost of care?
When does a person become, or cease to be, a human being? The rather compelling argument that a fetus is a parasite rather than a human promotes abortion as a right of the mother, but does that right continue once the fetus matures enough to live, if born prematurely, outside the womb?
Now, a very premature, but wanted fetus can be saved by high tech, hundreds of thousands of dollars care. Is he more of a human being than a seven month old fetus who could live and breathe on his own if born early, if not killed by injection of saline into his amniotic sac?
At present, we are making laws regarding abortion without a science-based definition of viability. Does viability change one from a fetus to a human?
In the very rare case when a choice must be made between the life of the mother and her fetus, who should be allowed to live?
Should terminally ill people be comforted – or killed?
Hopefully, the failure of SB311 in Maryland will give us some time to think through these compelling issues, consider the consequences, and chart the course that we really want in our society.