Wesley J. Smith: The Dangers of Abandoning the Terminally Ill in Suicide Prevention


(First Things) – Have you noticed that suicide prevention campaigns these days don’t mention assisted suicide? Perhaps they don’t want to court controversy, or perhaps organizers have swallowed the notion that the suicide of the terminally ill isn’t really suicide—it’s “death with dignity.” Whatever the reason, this crucial lapse of proffered care illustrates how our society is less concerned about the suicides of terminally ill people than about the suicides of people who choose to die for other reasons.

This is wrong. Excluding the terminally ill from suicide prevention campaigns is discrimination and a form of abandonment. Dying isn’t the same as being dead; it is a stage, albeit a difficult stage, of living. But other times in our lives can be just as difficult, or even more so—for instance, the experience of losing a child. One of the points of suicide prevention is to help people in emotionally or physically excruciating circumstances to make it through the darkness. That should include the process of dying. Indeed, suicide prevention is supposed to be as much a part of hospice care as pain control.

Excluding the terminally ill from suicide prevention services is cruelly misguided, even in states where assisted suicide for such patients is legal. Here’s why: CONTINUE