Published: March 19, 2011
While pain is part of life, so is compassion. Focusing on compassion in the midst of pain is a sure sign of a healthy society. But “mercy killing” need not and should not be thought of as compassion.
As far as I know, suicide is not a criminal offense. If there are folks who are unwilling to live with pain and wish to kill themselves, then they are legally free to do so. I find these deaths deeply saddening, but no legislation will stop them.
The problems come when people “help” another kill himself or herself. If I meet someone who is highly distraught and miserable, who tells me he wants to drive a car into the rocks on the interstate and kill himself, and I then hand him my car key, would I not have committed a criminal offense — perhaps even second-degree murder? (What if I am his primary insurance beneficiary?) But if I decline and this person goes to his doctor two days later where he is told that his distress is caused by an inoperable brain tumor that will kill him in the next few weeks, and the doctor fills a syringe with cyanide and leaves the room, would we call the doctor a hero?
The same outcome leaves one “helper” a criminal and the other a “hero.” Is this the sort of society we want in Vermont? Should we not expect more of ourselves? Should we not diminish discomfort, show compassion and gentleness, and walk with a person through the hard times, instead of “helping” a suicide?