New England Journal of Medicine study: People don’t seek assisted suicide to prevent pain

Assisted suicide injection needle

Pro-assisted suicide activists often argue for legalization while claiming that people should be able to choose an undignified, pain-free death. People suffering from terminal illnesses should be allowed to die peacefully, they say, as opposed to being forced to endure long, painful deaths filled with suffering and indignity. It certainly tugs at the heartstrings, because who wants to force someone to spend their final days in painful suffering?

There’s just one problem: most people who seek out assisted suicide aren’t looking to prevent pain, according to a new study from the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that few patients requested assisted suicide because they were unable to control their pain or the symptoms of their disease; instead, most people cited a loss of autonomy as their reason for wanting assisted suicide. Other frequent reasons listed were fear of being a burden on others, and not being able to enjoy life.

Those reasons should sound familiar; they’re common among those who are suicidal. The only difference is that most of the time, we see suicide as something to be prevented at all costs. But when someone is part of a vulnerable population — those battling disease or mental illness, the disabled, the poor, the elderly — suddenly, we shouldn’t try to prevent their suicides. Instead, we are told we should encourage, enable, and abet them.

Prior studies have had similar results to the New England Journal of Medicine study. People requesting assisted suicide while fighting terminal illnesses are typically afraid, struggle with hopelessness and clinical depression, and have low family support. When the root causes of their request for assisted suicide are treated, then the request is often withdrawn.

So the question is, why are we so quick to allow assisted suicide for some people, while we fight so valiantly to prevent it for others? Why are some lives worth saving and others are not? Every time a state legalizes assisted suicide, we are agreeing with people who feel that their lives are a burden, that they’re no longer worth living. We are telling them that they are right to feel the way that they do, and that their lives aren’t worth saving. Suicidal people who are at their most vulnerable will have those suicidal thoughts affirmed, and will be given the means to end their lives, while they should be told that they are not burdens, that their lives are still worthwhile, and that they still have dignity.

All people who are grappling with suicidal thoughts deserve to be given proper treatment. They don’t deserve to have an assisted suicide lobby eagerly hand them fatal prescriptions and then use them as poster children for euthanasia. It’s exploitation, plain and simple. It’s cruel, and it’s wrong. And it must be stopped.

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