At the Heart of Assisted Suicide

    Colorado will vote on Proposition 106 in November. Prop 106 is modeled after the Oregon law that began permitting assisted suicide in the 90s. Colorado Public Radio reported that the Archdiocese of Denver put forward $1,000,000.00 to defeat Prop 106. Though I don’t relish the task of voting on it or writing about it, it ought to be defeated.

    The principal opposition bases its message on flaws in the text itself, hanging its hat on practical arguments against the law. Such flaws being highlighted include a lack of required mental health exams for those wishing to take their lives, the risk of doctors making mistakes about whether patients are terminally ill and may thus take their own lives, and the risk that patients will make a mistake when administering the life-ending “medication” to themselves.

    These are real flaws leading to real concerns. I understand that polling was conducted and found that concerns such as the above resonate with voters. As a result, the primary public message of the opposition including, to my understanding and experience, that opposition being put forward by the Archdiocese, is that the text is flawed.

    This is a mistake. Support for assisted suicide comes from a moral position toward suffering, life, and freedom. Only a moral position toward the same can counter it.

    The heart of this law is a judgment that some lives are not worth living, much less protecting or elevating. This law presumes that someone of sound mind could choose freely to pursue suicide despite our natural tendency toward survival. This law implicitly accepts that it is better for some human burdens on society or families to be eliminated than loved. Above all, the law spurns, or at least distorts, love that bears all things, hopes all things.

    The truth that can resonate with voters is one that cuts through the practical bologna and asks them to affirm the goodness of something, the goodness of life. Without that affirmation, the practical arguments aren’t terribly important. Without value for my life, I don’t care about various practical arguments in support of it, such as those telling me to exercise or avoid carbs. The heart must be spoken to.

    Flawed text arguments also set up a problem when the flaws are resolved. If Prop 106 is defeated, you can bet something similar will be on the ballot again. And if it was defeated because of poor drafting, you can also bet that the drafting errors will be corrected. What will we say then, after all of our stated concerns are answered and more “safeguards” are included?

    I do not oppose Prop 106 because of poor drafting. I oppose Prop106 because I value my suffering neighbor’s life, because I love my neighbor. This is enough. This truth is enough. If it’s not enough, then this truth is the starting point and practical this and that can serve an ancillary role. An appeal to love, which requires more than our words, isn’t as easy as a pragmatic approach, so it probably doesn’t poll well. But it is more effective when dealing with humans.

    When my friends and colleagues ask me about Prop 106, I will start with love.