Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

In a recent letter titled Don't Legalize Suicide, bishop Paul G. Bootkoski called on New Jerseyans to reject their state's proposed Death With Dignity Act, which would allow doctor-assisted suicide. 

The NJ Death With Dignity Act "would allow terminally ill patients ... to decide how and when they die." The bill would authorize doctors to "prescribe lethal doses of drugs to patients who have less than six months to live."

In opposition, Bootkoski claims the act would “undermine the sacredness of human life” because “Every human life, at every stage and in every condition, has inherent value and dignity bestowed by God."

But Bootkoski’s reasons for opposing the act are misplaced. This is a religious view, and the Reverend has a right to his opinion. But he does not the right to impose his views on others.

Religion has no place in the laws of a secular country governed by the principle of separation of church and state. That principle is foundational to a free society, because it is intended to prevent the imposition of religion or religious tenets by the state.

The issue of right to die is fundamentally an issue of the individual’s right to his own life. The right to life implies the right to make one’s own end-of-life decisions, including assisted suicide. For too long, this right has been legally denied. Yes, every human life has value and dignity—and rights—which we should respect by enacting The Death with Dignity Act. (I made these essential points, in more abbreviated form, in a letter that was published in the 2/15/13 Star-Ledger under the title Life and Death.)

While I believe the bill is a good step, I believe more liberalization in this area is needed. There is the question of whether assisted suicide should be restricted to terminally ill patients with less than six months to live. What about people existing in what can only be called a state of living death? For a perspective that argues for expanding the concept of legal assisted suicide beyond the terminally ill, read my post "I've Suffered Enough" -- A Young Woman's Quest for a Peaceful End to an "Intolerable" Life.


Mike Kevitt said...

I believe people often confuse assisted suicide with euthanasia. Euthanasia IS a violation of individual rights. Objectivists seem to elevate Kevorkian. Rightly so, until he performed his last 'assistance', which was actually euthanasia, which got him in jail. He also allowed, even helped everybody, including the legal system, think or pretend the two are the same and that both are wrong.

Mike LaFerrara said...

That's a good point. I'm not sure about Kevorkian. But I've often heard conservatives--especially those of the religious variety such as Rush Limbaugh--(deliberately?) obfuscate the issue.