Analysis

Bioethicist slams California for considering assisted suicide for those with dementia

assisted suicide, euthanasia

A new op-ed from Charles Camosy, a professor of bioethics and moral theology at Fordham University, warns of the risks that assisted suicide poses to vulnerable communities. Writing for the New York Post, Camosy slammed California for considering assisted suicide for people with dementia, urging the public to look to Europe to see why assisted suicide is so dangerous.

“You can start with seemingly ironclad safeguards, such as ‘six months to live’ or ‘hopeless and unbearable suffering’ — but soon enough, legalizing physician-assisted suicide opens the door to killing children who are too young to consent, victims of sexual abuse and even those who are simply ‘tired of life,'” Camosy began. “That’s the lesson of Europe’s experience with assisted suicide and euthanasia, practices whose advocates are making quiet but expansive inroads in North America, as well.”

California’s law legalizing assisted suicide was put into place in 2015, before Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia ruled that the California legislature violated the state constitution, and overturned it. The law was slipped in during a special session meant to be dedicated to Medicare funding. However, an appeals court reinstated the law just one month later. It didn’t take long for reports to surface that California insurance companies were refusing to pay for treatment — instead, only offering to pay for assisted suicide.

According to Camosy, things will get worse.

“The Golden State legalized the practice only six years ago and already, there are efforts to roll back safeguards built into the 2015 legislation, including cutting back a 15-day waiting period to a mere 48 hours and eliminating legislative review of annual reports about how the practice is working. California activists are even trying to expand physician-assisted killing to people with dementia,” he said, adding that similar problems are taking place in Canada.

“Despite the objections of disability-rights organizations and First Nations leaders, communities disproportionately at risk for suicide, Canada recently opened up the practice to the disabled and mentally ill,” Camosy wrote. “Deaths by this kind of suicide soared during the pandemic, with loneliness playing a major role.”

READ: As Ireland considers assisted suicide, study finds 72% who ‘wish to die’ change their minds

This is a natural result of a culture that assigns less value to the elderly and to people with disabilities.

“If what we value primarily are productivity and autonomy, then the lives of human beings who lose their autonomy and become a net burden on others (and the state) are almost by definition of less or no value,” Camosy wrote. “With this in mind, it is perhaps less surprising to discover that physical pain and suffering don’t make the top five reasons people request physician-assisted killing in Oregon — it’s the loss of autonomy that is the No. 1 reason for such requests.”

Instead of valuing people merely for what they can produce, Camosy said we should embrace the knowledge that every human life has inherent value.

“It is time for those of us with this theological understanding of the human person — especially Christians, Jews and Muslims — to stop capitulating to the false neutrality of secularism and actively defend and support those who are denied fundamental human equality,” Camosy concluded. “Our current trajectory has already been disastrous for many populations, unborn children and those with catastrophic brain injuries high among them. If we don’t mobilize now in defense of the principle of fundamental human equality, people with dementia will be next.”

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