Justice Gorsuch condemns the death and suicide cult

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has written The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, a book that eloquently condemns assisted suicide and euthanasia as a violation of basic legal tenets of American law.

In the process of his criticism, he reasserted the value of life and the individual, and sounded an alarm about the values of life and the individual that were at risk from the aggressive project to promote euthanasia and assisted suicide.

There is no doubt that Gorsuch provides the most thorough and compelling condemnation of assisted suicide and euthanasia yet.  He certainly puts a hole in the side of the ship of the cult of death.  His book provides a thorough overview of the ethical and legal issues raised by assisted suicide and euthanasia and a comprehensive argument against the legalization of these heinous acts.

Judge Gorsuch evaluates the ethical arguments for euthanasia and assisted suicide, lays out the evidence on how these projects result in a casual dismissal of the meaning of life in places where the new approach has been adopted like the Netherlands and Oregon, and makes a strong case for the malfeasance and immoral conduct these enabling laws create. 

Judge Gorsuch assesses the ethical and moral arguments of the advocates of a liberated approach to killing the useless eaters and the disabled when contrasted with the principle that intentional killing is always wrong.  

Judge Gorsuch is leery of killing depressed and hopeless individuals for the obvious reason: their depressed state is a pathological state in itself, deserving of treatment, not enablement.  Judge Gorsuch builds a robust argument against legalization when he confronts the ethical arguments for assisted suicide and euthanasia.  He explores evidence and case histories from the Netherlands and Oregon, where the practices have been legalized.  He analyzes libertarian and autonomy-based arguments for legalization as well as the impact of key U.S. Supreme Court decisions on the debate.  And he examines the history and evolution of laws and attitudes regarding assisted suicide and euthanasia in American society.

After assessing the strengths and weaknesses of arguments for assisted suicide and euthanasia, Gorsuch builds a reasonable and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization, one based on a principle that, surprisingly, has largely been overlooked in the debate — the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong.  At the same time, the argument Gorsuch develops leaves wide latitude for individual patient autonomy and the refusal of unwanted medical treatment and life-sustaining care, permitting intervention only in cases where an intention to kill is present.

Those on both sides of the assisted suicide question will find Gorsuch's analysis a thoughtful and stimulating contribution to the debate about one of the most controversial public policy issues of our day.  

I would add to Judge Gorusch's presentation the essay by  Dr. Leo Alexander that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1949, an analysis of the reasons why the Nazi physicians were able to kill and maim individuals considered inferior or not deserving of consideration as human — for political, social, or ideological reasons.  Dr. Alexander, an American neurologist/psychiatrist, a Jew, educated in Vienna, investigator for the Nuremberg Tribunal that had Nazi physicians on trial for war crimes, asserts that the moral limits are violated when individuals and the society at large accept the idea that there are sub-humans who are expendable, unacceptable, inferior, or a burden or disabled so they cannot contribute.  If the status of those individuals is considered less than human, the easy step is to treat them as subhuman, candidates for abuse and extermination by the will of the state and its officials.

There is an ominous taint to the idea that the law and the government will enable killing people because they are sick or depressed, or disabled, or just old and willing to end it. 

The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia by Neil M. Gorsuch 

ISBN-13: 978-0-691-12458-2 Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 2006 

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. is an emergency and corrections physician, inactive attorney in Brownwood, Texas. 

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