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Euthanasia Essay: The Hemlock Society and Assisted Suicide

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Hemlock Society, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

 

Dori Zook, Hemlock Society public relations director, claims that Hemlock supports legalization of physician- assisted death only in cases of terminal illness. And Hemlock's website asserts that the Society favors physician-assisted suicide strictly for someone "who is already in the dying process." But there is a glaring discrepancy between this official stance and what prominent members of Hemlock have said and done.

 

For example, there is this little gem from Hemlock co-founder Derek Humphry's book, Final Exit:

"What can those of us who sympathize with a justified suicide by a handicapped person do to help? When we have statutes on the books permitting lawful physician aid-in-dying for the terminally ill, I believe that along with this reform there will come a more tolerant attitude to the other exceptional cases."

 

Or take the actions of Hemlock leaders in the case of Elizabeth Bouvia. Writing about the Bouvia case, Humphrey expressed Hemlock's support of the right to voluntary euthanasia for "a person terminally ill, or severely handicapped and deteriorating...." Hemlock Quarterly 14 (1984). But Ms Bouvia was not "deteriorating." Cerebral palsy is not degenerative. The open-ended term "deteriorating" can be made to mean almost anything in order to justify a disabled person's suicide. Bouvia's lawyers, led by Richard Scott, another co-founder of Hemlock, distorted the nature of her disability, likening her to a terminal patient. "Were Plaintiff Bouvia an 84-year-old woman whose life was prolonged solely by various tubes and numerous machines," they argued in the Riverside Superior Court, "and she sought to end such an existence, it is doubtf...


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...rejudice against people with disabilities, they must publicly denounce Jack Kevorkian's bigotry.

 

The statements and actions noted above are neither stray, nor taken out of context. RTD leaders, time after time, have demonstrated the same willingness to promote this final "solution" to the problems of people with disabilities. Taken together, these words and deeds mark a clear and consistent pattern of promoting assisted suicide for people with disabilities.

 

Why, then do RTD leaders now claim to advocate a narrower application of assisted suicide? Perhaps they tailor their message depending on the immediate political climate and who they think is listening. For the benefit of all of us who are listening, we call on Hemlock, its leaders, and allies to come forward with boldness and honesty to clearly state their complete agenda.

 

 


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