Progressivism and Physician Assisted Suicide

by Christopher White, CBC Director of Research and Education on February 8, 2016

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On Friday, a bill to advance physician assisted suicide in Colorado was approved by the House Judiciary Committee. It now makes its way to the full House for consideration.

Leading the charge for the bill was a democratic House member, and all six democratic legislators on the committee voted in favor of the bill. After hearing this news, I couldn’t help but to recall an op-ed by Dr. Ira Byock, a self-described liberal who encouraged his fellow democrats to oppose any efforts to support this practice. Writing in Politico this past summer he argued:

A healthy society doesn’t force its members to choose between suffering and suicide. I grew up believing that every person’s life has value and that America does not settle for less than the best. Suicide is not the answer. We are a far more generous people than that. Aged, ill and dying Americans need progressives to reclaim our commitment to bold, constructive political and social action.

Byock is right to call out his fellow progressives on this issue. Physician assisted suicide is incompatible with the liberal ideals of caring for the vulnerable and improving healthcare for all citizens.

But, opposition to physician assisted suicide shouldn’t be a partisan issue at all. It should be one that is rejected on the fundamental grounds that doctors shouldn’t be involved in the killing of their patients and a shared commitment that a healthy society should never promote suicide, regardless of the circumstances. Sadly, the number of leaders—both politicians and physicians alike—that are guided by these principles seem regrettably in decline.

Image by eraphernalia_vintage via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

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