Question: Dr. Dobson, why is there such concern about the euthanasia movement? If a sick, elderly person wants to die with dignity, I don't see why that should threaten anybody. Why shouldn't we permit a quiet suicide when the quality of life is no longer there?
Answer: Your question is so important in today's cultural environment that I must answer at some length.
You have offered a very seductive argument, especially to those of us who know of older people who are suffering a slow, painful death. It does seem more humane to allow them to go to sleep quietly and escape their misery. It is my firm conviction, however, that untold sorrow for thousands of people and eventual social chaos lie down that road.
The problem, aside from the moral issue of taking human life, is that euthanasia is inevitably progressive in nature. Once you let that snake out of the basket, it will be impossible to control where it slithers! Allow me to illustrate.
Suppose physician-assisted suicide eventually is legalized for elderly people who are terminally ill. How would it be limited thereafter for those who were neither sick nor severely handicapped? How about an older but healthy man who was simply tired of living? Could we really require a note from his physician in order to permit his suicide?
Then if old but healthy people can choose to die, what about the not-so-old? Could a fifty-year-old person take the plunge? If not, why not? How about a forty-year-old woman in menopause or a man in midlife crisis? When you stop to think about it, age has nothing to do with the decision. A twenty-year-old depressed but healthy student would be as entitled to "death with dignity" as the terminally ill.
If euthanasia is legal for anyone, it will soon become legal for everyone. Neither age, health factors, nor quality of life could be defended as qualifiers. The Hemlock Society, which actively promotes euthanasia, certainly understands that fact. They speak confidently about a "right to die" for every human being.
Let's extend that concept now to its worst-case scenario, as suggested by anti-euthanasia activist Rita Marker. Suppose Diane is an eighteen-year-old high school senior who is loved greatly by her family. One day, she fails to come home from school when expected. By six-thirty that evening, her mother is starting to worry. When eight o'clock rolls around, her father calls the police. There's been no report of an accident, he is told. None of the local hospitals have a patient named Diane. Mom then begins making frantic telephone calls and finally reaches Diane's best friend, Rene. "Oh, Mrs. Johnson," Rene says with compassion. She begins to cry. "I wanted so much to call you, but I promised Diane I would let the clinic tell you."
"Clinic? What clinic?!" says Mrs. Johnson.
"You know," says Rene. "The Life Choice Clinic downtown. I think you'd better call them."
Diane's mother gets the clinic administrator on the line, who says, "I'm terribly sorry, Mrs. Johnson, we were just getting ready to call you. I know this will be hard for you, but please sit down. Diane came in this afternoon and asked to be assisted in her passing. You may know that she had been very depressed about her grades and because of the rejection letter she received from the state university. Then when her boyfriend let her down, well, she just didn't want to go on living. And as you know, 'right to die' laws now apply to every adult eighteen years old and over.
"Try to understand that this is what Diane most wanted. It was her choice, and she is entitled to control her own body. I assure you she was very peaceful as she left us, and her last words were an expression of love for her family."
Does that story seem too far-fetched to be credible? Perhaps. But who would have thought in 1950 that we would soon be filling garbage bags with perfectly formed premature babies who were mangled or burned to death with salt? Could we have imagined that nearly forty million of those precious children would be torn from their mothers' wombs?
Can anyone believe that we are incapable of killing any population of people—especially those who want to die—when we have wreaked such violence on the most defenseless in our midst?
Historically, those nations that have opened the door to the monster of euthanasia have slid into a nightmare of murder. This is precisely what happened in Nazi Germany. They began by killing the sick and old; then they destroyed the mentally ill, mentally retarded, and infants born with deformities. From there, it was but a small step to begin exterminating "undesirables"—the Jews, Poles, Gypsies, the nonproductive, political prisoners, homosexuals, and others. Euthanasia was the first small step down the road toward the extermination camps.
Even if this epidemic of murder did not occur, it is certain that "right to death" laws would result in a dramatic increase in the number of suicides occurring annually. Each death would represent incalculable grief, guilt, and sorrow for those left behind.
Suicide may look like an easy way out for the one who dies, but it is perhaps the most painful experience in living for loved ones and relatives—many of whom would certainly be children. We draw the same conclusion from every angle. Yet the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, citing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Casey has unleashed it on the American culture. God help us!
From Dr. Dobson's book Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide.