What the "Friendly Atheist" is missing when he endorses assisted suicide

Hemant Mehta, a YouTuber at The Atheist Voice and writer at Friendly Atheist, released a short video voicing his opinion that the Canadian Supreme Court overturning the country’s ban on doctor-assisted suicide was the right decision.  Hear his thoughts below:

Leaving aside Judeo-Christian beliefs in the value of both Life and suffering, let’s examine some of the problems with Mehta’s unwavering support. 

Mehta acknowledges a crucial point: that the sentiments of loved ones and family often play into decisions about medical care.  He argues that this is proof that terminally ill patients are forced to continue living against their will.  However, he fails to note the dangerous conundrum facing patients living in countries with legal assisted suicide: Their families may be more motivated to hasten their death than to encourage their suffering loved ones to take Life one day at a time.  Family members or guardians who coerce or manipulate vulnerable individuals into committing assisted suicide, in fact, are an active faction rallying behind assisted suicide laws globally.  These groups argue that the continued lifespan of suffering persons can place an undue burden on the emotions, time, and financial resources of loved ones. 

Governments, too, have revealed a disturbing interest in curtailing the lives of the suffering for the sake of overall economic advantage, totally divorced from concern for individual human beings.  In short, aside from all ethical arguments about the dignity of Life, assisted suicide is simply too slippery a slope.

Mehta also errs when he insinuates that the people seeking assisted suicide are a uniform group of dying patients:  “If you’re an adult, and you’re mentally competent, and there really is no hope of you getting any better, then prolonging your life just means prolonging your suffering.”  Sadly, however, the slippery slope of assisted suicide has already eclipsed this original notion that the law would only be used by individuals who were mentally competent and already dying. 

Just one example of many is that of a 24-year-old young woman in Belgium who has received permission to commit assisted suicide because she suffers from psychological disorders.  She reports having wanted to die “ever since childhood,” despite enjoying “coffee, friends and theater,” and will reportedly take her own life – with the help of a physician – sometime this summer.  But this young woman is not an anomaly

In Belgium, where assisted suicide has been a legal and rapidly expanding practice since 2002, the situation is so dire that 13% of the patients euthanized do not have a terminal condition.  In some parts of Belgium, as many as 1 in 20 people end their lives through assisted suicide.  This is not a testament to progress, but rather proof that suffering persons are being sent the message loud and clear that their Lives are not dignified.

At Secular Pro-Life, Kelsey Hazzard shared the following insights:  “No man is an island.  We are deeply influenced by others, especially family, and especially when we are in a vulnerable state—as when we've been shocked by an unplanned pregnancy or a cancer diagnosis.”  Hazzard went on to enumerate examples of situations in which mothers have been manipulated, coerced, or forced into abortions they did not want to undergo.  The issue, she explains, is akin to assisted suicide: “How do we prevent similar complications from arising in the context of assisted suicide?  How do we make sure that vulnerable people are not unduly influenced by family members, by overly pessimistic doctors, or by the potential financial burden of a longer life?”

Assisted suicide is not as simple or as cut-and-dry as Mehta characterizes the issue.  Assisted suicide affects a growing number of people who are not terminally ill, and who do not truly wish to die.  Treating the issue as such is a disservice to those who are suffering.

Read about Texas Right to Life’s stance on physician-assisted suicide here