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"We never say no."

The right-to-die movement abandons pretense.

12:00 AM, Apr 27, 2006 • By WESLEY J. SMITH
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THERE IS A PRETENSE in contemporary assisted suicide advocacy that goes something like this: "Aid in dying" (as it is euphemistically called) is merely to be a safety valve, a last resort only available to imminently dying patients for whom nothing else can be done to alleviate suffering.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the founder of the Swiss suicide facilitating organization Dignitas is just about done with pretense. The Sunday Times Magazine (London) reported that Dignitas' founder, Ludwig Minelli, plans to create sort of a Starbucks for suicide: a chain of death centers "to end the lives of people with illnesses and mental conditions such as chronic depression."

Minelli believes that all suicidal people should be given information about the best way to kill themselves, and, according to the Times story, "if they choose to die, they should be helped to do it properly." Dignitas admits to having assisted the suicides of many people who were not terminally ill. As Minelli succinctly put it, "We never say no."

The story about Minelli illuminates a deep ideological belief within the euthanasia movement: that we own our bodies, and thus, determining the time, manner, and method of our own deaths, for whatever reason, is a basic human right.

That is certainly how one of the other superstars of the international euthanasia movement, the Australian physician Phillip Nitschke, sees it. Nitschke travels the world presenting how-to-commit-suicide clinics. Several years ago he was paid thousands of dollars by the Hemlock Society (now merged into the assisted suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices) to create a suicide concoction made from common household ingredients (a formula he calls the "Peaceful Pill").

Like Minelli, Nitschke is straightforward about his goals. In a 2001 interview, National Review Online asked him who should qualify for the Peaceful Pill. He responded:

My personal position is that if we believe that there is a right to life, then we must accept that people have a right to dispose of that life whenever they want . . . So all people qualify, not just those with the training, knowledge, or resources to find out how to "give away" their life. And someone needs to provide this knowledge, training, or resource necessary to anyone who wants it, including the depressed, the elderly bereaved, [and] the troubled teen.

Nitschke and Minelli's position has a large constituency among euthanasia believers. Indeed, over the years, the movement has left many telltale signs that assisted suicide is not intended ultimately to be restricted to the imminently dying.

Take the "Zurich Declaration," issued at the 1998 bi-annual convention of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies. (The WFRD is an umbrella group made up of 37 national euthanasia advocacy organizations, including Compassion and Choices and Hemlock founder Derek Humphry's Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization, or ERGO.) It states:

We believe that we have a major responsibility for ensuring that it becomes legally possible for all competent adults, suffering severe and enduring distress, to receive medical help to die, if this is their persistent, voluntary and rational request. We note that such medical assistance is already permitted in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Oregon, USA.

It should also be noted that one need not be dying or even sick to experience "severe and enduring distress."

SUPPORT FOR A BROAD AND LIBERAL ACCESS to suicide extends far beyond activists in the euthanasia movement. It has been embraced by some people in the mental health professions, where a concept known as "rational suicide" is being promoted in professional journals, books, and at symposia.

Typical of this genre is a 1998 article by James W. Werth published in the journal Crisis, with the ironic title, "Using Rational Suicide as an Intervention to Prevent Irrational Suicide." Werth urges that mental health professionals should not always save the lives of suicidal patients, but instead, should non-judgmentally facilitate the suicidal person's decision making process. If the professional agrees that the desire to die is rational, then the suicide should be permitted, or perhaps even assisted.