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Suicide and the Law

By Judie Brown

It seems almost ironic to use that headline! On the one hand, the laws of man are fungible, so even killing oneself is permitted. But not according to God’s law. Sadly, that fact has not stopped the erosion of respect for the human being, including oneself.

The United States has come a long way, or should I say it has slid a long way down since the first reported assisted suicide occurred in 1990 when Jack Kevorkian helped Janet Adkins kill herself. There have been movies glamorizing it, not to mention television shows and more. In other words, assisted suicide proponents, including Derek Humphry, have done a masterful job of mainstreaming the idea of killing oneself either alone or with the assistance of others. 

Most recently, the Catholic News Agency featured an overview of state laws that permit the practice. The article states that “almost a quarter (21.6%) of the U. S. population lives in a state that has legalized” it. 

Professor William May, a Catholic bioethicist, defines the act of assisted suicide as “the act of making the means of suicide available to the patient, who subsequently acts on his or her own. In many cases, a doctor or other authorized health care professional will be authorized to prescribe the patient a lethal dose of medication, which the patient administers to himself or herself.”

But the grave injustice to the vulnerable that lurks behind such laws and statements about them is that the intentional act of euthanasia—even if it entails one person helping another kill himself—is “gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator.”

Nobody should need a reminder that such acts are sinful, but in the current cultural downturn involving actions such as murder, it cannot be taken for granted that our fellow citizens understand that helping someone take his own life is a crime against God. For that matter, murder seems to be a matter of preference no matter what the reason. 

Thankfully not everyone is riding that bandwagon. 

Yet, some have caveats to their support of the action, including billionaire Elon Musk, who opines, “I agree with assisted suicide if someone is a mature adult, but definitely not kids. . . . There is a reason we have an age of consent.”

Further, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life weighed in regarding the assisted suicide law in Italy, saying,

“Personally, I would not practice suicide assistance, but I understand that legal mediation may be the greatest common good concretely possible under the conditions we find ourselves in.”

While Paglia attempted to clarify his comments, suggesting that he was not approving of the act, the damage had been done. 

Obviously the larger question in all this, whether discussing American jurisprudence or Italian law, is: Why is there a debate at all about a law that protects the act of killing oneself? Why isn’t there simply a consistent legal history throughout the world that “thou shalt not kill”?

That simple statement, made by God Himself and handed down to Moses as one of the Ten Commandments, really needs no clarification, but human beings are prone to meddle in the affairs of God, and as we all know, chaos ensues. 

This is how we arrived at our current state in a society that condones killing innocent people, whether by ingestion of chemicals, surgical instruments, or alleged “mercifully administered” lethal drugs. Some would say this is the new normal, but I say it is demonic. It is a signal that society is on a fast track to destroying itself. 

The enemy is not a foreign country; it is our own insatiable hunger to be comfortable, no matter who has to die in the process. 

The law should be a teacher, constantly reminding the uninformed that taking an innocent life is a crime, but instead the law protects such acts. And thus it is that killing oneself with the help of another is becoming more acceptable every day.

How much farther down this vile hole will we go?