Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been touted as dignified ways for people who are terminally ill or profoundly suffering to take their own lives. Advocates use euphemisms such as “death with dignity” in an attempt to portray it as a compassionate way for people to die, but there’s a darker side that doesn’t get enough coverage: the impact that the movement is having on spiking suicides in people who are not terminally ill.
A recent New York Times investigation examined suicide-friendly websites, which are serving as an instruction manual for people in methods for how to kill themselves. Stunningly, the Times found that just one of the websites they investigated gets six million global views per month, and half of the users are under age 25. While the investigation does not directly connect the spike in visits to these sites to the assisted suicide movement, one woman involved is saying that they are absolutely linked.
In an interview with the Parents Rights Action Fund, a mom named Jackie Bieber explained that she believes the assisted suicide movement is fueling what is called “suicide contagion.” Jackie’s daughter, 25-year-old Shawn Shatto, killed herself in 2019 after using a death recipe she got from one of the websites mentioned in the NYT investigation.
“Talking about assisted suicide is very dangerous, especially when you have the younger kids on there and the vulnerable that feel lost and are in pain,” Jackie said. “I believe when Shawn went on that website and she saw the way they were talking about ending their lives saying ‘Well, you know, it’s okay to kill yourself over a terminal illness.’ She probably thought ‘Yeah, I’m in pain and I’m dealing with this, why can’t I die like that too?’”
In her interview, Jackie described the website that told her daughter how to kill herself.
“There’s like a menu,” she said. “And it gives you a list of how you want to die. And you choose your method. And they provided her with the recipe, the method instructions.” According to the Parents Rights Action Fund, the drug cocktail that Shawn used to kill herself was one published by proponents of assisted suicide laws. The group further alleges, “How-to handbooks and highly publicized assisted suicides orchestrated by proponents cause copycat suicides.”
Jackie’s painful story is a glaring example of the hypocrisy of the assisted suicide movement. One cannot champion the right to die for one segment of people (the terminally ill), while simultaneously saying that others should avoid suicide at all costs. As assisted suicide proponents are pushing for greater access to death for people whose lives are deemed unworthy, they are also sending the dangerous message that human life is expendable to those who are depressed or lonely.
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