Thursday, November 15, 2012

No go for assisted suicide

Nationally, the United States, like Britain, has consistently refused to legalise euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. Two individual US states have agreed to allow assisted suicide, and the numbers of assisted suicides in those states have increased considerably since they were first permitted.

Massachusetts is the latest state to hold a referendum on the issue. Legalisation of assisted suicide was defeated there by 1,516,584 votes to 1,453,742 - 51 per cent to 49 per cent. I thought this a small margin, but I am told it represents a significant victory for the pro-life cause since Massachusetts is strongly Democrat and one of the most liberal of US states.

American bioethicist Wesley J. Smith says the fight for assisted suicide was lost in Massachusetts because opponents were not just religious groups, but disability rights activists, medical organisations, pro-lifers, and advocates for the poor concerned that assisted suicide might be promoted for economic reasons;

legalising assisted suicide was not high on people's "to-do list" (although most people were not emotionally opposed either. Primarily, they didn't want to think about it);

Massachusetts retains a strong Catholic identity; and

there remains sufficient traditional morality in the country to allow liberals to oppose a specific proposal, while still supporting the concept.

Which gives me some hope for the situation in Britain.

Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide in Britain are well supported and very vocal - but the public as a whole, and politicians in particular, are yet to be convinced.