Mission Creep, Assisted Suicide Style

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on November 6, 2013

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Derek Humphrey is coming to Tucson Arizona this month to give two talks promoting his views on legalized assisted suicide. For those unfamiliar with Humphrey, he’s the founder of the Hemlock Society, author of the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying, and Chairman of the Final Exit Advisory Board. His work has been described by the group Not Dead Yet as “a group of underground assisted suicide vigilantes who ‘help’ people commit suicide with plastic bags and helium and then clean up the scene to make it look like the deceased individual died a natural death.”

Apparently Humphrey and his ilk are not just happy assisting the dying in hastening their death, but now seek to expand their efforts into assisting the mentally ill in dying.

From the local Arizona Press on Humphrey’s upcoming talks:

“From their [people with mental illness] point of view, the suffering is as great as a person dying of a physical illness,” [Humphrey] wrote in the announcement of his Tucson presentations. “And it probably is! They argue a terminal patient knows soon death will bring about the end of pain, whilst they are condemned to a lifetime of suffering. They report they have endured long hours of therapy and used mountains of prescribed medications. Still they would prefer death, they say.”

I’ve always said that if you accept the premise that it is morally permissible to aid in the dying of someone who is suffering unbearably with intractable pain and facing a terminal illness, why would you stop there? Suffering is suffering, right? Pain is subjective, and who are we to decide when pain has become unbearable.

So this kind of “mission creep” is a natural extension of the work of those who fight for legalized “aid in dying.”

It seems ironic that Humphrey is delivering his new expanded vision in Arizona, the place where the first Hemlock Chapter was started in 1980, and where the controversial Jana Van Voorhis case happened. In 2007, the suicide of a woman with a history of mental illness was allegedly assisted by the Final Exit Network.

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