How NOT To Prevent Assisted Suicide On World Suicide Prevention Day


Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and this week is the US National Suicide Prevention Week.

.According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention:

“We may not be able to pinpoint the exact figure, but we do know that each individual suicide is a tragic loss of life. It is hard to imagine the extreme psychological pain that leads someone to decide that suicide is the only course of action. Reaching out to someone who is struggling can make a difference.” (emphasis added)

All aspects of suicide, suicide prevention and the groups at risk are addressed by these organizations. Yet on the topic of preventing physician assisted suicide, there is only silence.

If indeed some suicides should be considered acceptable or even worthy, I have some suggestions on how NOT to prevent assisted suicide:

1. Change the terminology. Call your organization “Compassion and Choices” rather than The Euthanasia Society of America. Insist that physician assisted suicide now be called “death with dignity”, “aid in dying” or some other term that eliminates the word “suicide.”  Glamorize assisted suicide as “heroic” and “altruistic”. Refuse to even acknowledge the existence of suicide contagion and its devastating effects on surviving friends and families. Insist that only terminally ill people with 6 months to live and are in unendurable pain are eligible despite the evidence.

2. Change strategies as necessary. If most people in a state like California will not vote to legalize assisted suicide, find a judge to rule that a ban on assisted suicide is unconstitutional and hope that this will lead to a new US Supreme Court decision. Lobby professional health care organizations like the AMA, ANA and American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine to take at least a neutral position on assisted suicide because some of their members are in favor of assisted suicide. Encourage articles in journals like Psychology Today promoting the idea of “rational suicide”. Promote positive statements on assisted suicide from celebrities like Hugh Grant, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Stephen Hawking.

3. Demonize the opposition. Call them “religious extremists” who are against individual choice and freedom. Accuse them of actually wanting people to endure needless suffering. Tell health care professionals that their conscience rights  are merely a right to ” to exercise their idiosyncratic convictions at the expense of patient care”.  Ignore disability organizations like Not Dead Yet.

4. Manage negative facts to persuade the media and thus the public to support assisted suicide. Publicize tragic stories like Brittany Maynard’s to raise even more money to legalize assisted suicide everywhere. Dismiss  or downplay stories about coercion, euthanasia on demand in European countries, ethical palliative and hospice care  and criticism of so-called “safeguards” and self-reported state statistics.

5. Most of all, ignore the lethal consequences of physician assisted suicide on individuals, health care itself and society.

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