Wesley Smith wrote in First Things last week about the irony of the governor of Washington’s going to court in an unsuccessful effort to force a convicted murderer on death row to accept his offer of clemency. The governor is a big supporter of Washington’s assisted suicide law (http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke/2012/08/04/oregon-murderer-has-right-to-be-executed-over-objection-of-pro-assisted-suicide-governor//).
Adding irony to irony, the first commenter on Smith’s article writes that Smith’s irony is thin, because “the chance of the state’s mistakenly killing an innocent person” is different from “the right of a desperate person for autonomy”. What about the inmate’s autonomy? How do we know he isn’t “desperate” to die?
More important, and more ironic, is the virtual certainty that, over time, mistakes in legalized assisted suicide are just as inevitable as mistakes under capital punishment laws.
The safeguards will fail.
People will feel the very existence of assisted suicide as a form of pressure.
Insurance companies and government programs will deny life-prolonging treatment and pressure people to die by listing assistance in suicide as a covered alternative; this has already happened in Oregon (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1).
Relatives and other caregivers will pressure sick people purposely or inadvertently; this has also already happened in Oregon (http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-58831754.html).
People who have requested suicide drugs for the security of knowing they have them “just in case”, but who would have been among the many who, according to assisted suicide proponents, never use them, will be poisoned by criminals who will never, ever be prosecuted or even investigated. The killing of the innocent will happen. It may already have happened. Who would ever know?