Murder, Inc.

Last week Oregonians blazed a new Oregon trail: They voted to retain the state’s physician-assisted suicide law. Overnight, Oregon became the only place in the world where physicians are legally empowered to help patients kill themselves. Doctors may now throw out the Hippocratic Oath and ask themselves: "Which hat shall I wear today—the white hat of mercy or the black hat of death?" Both supporters and opponents of the law describe Oregon as a laboratory in which the viability of physician-assisted suicide will be tested. If the experiment is deemed successful, however, the chilling result will go far beyond Oregon’s borders: The Supreme Court may use the Oregon law to force all states to legalize assisted suicide. The Supreme court tipped its hand last June in a case called Washington v. Glucksberg, in which it unanimously ruled that there’s no constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. That sounds like good news—but in reality this ruling meant only that the justices were still a little squeamish: They were not quite ready—yet—to embrace a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. Justice Souter in particular said he first wanted to see how the law works out in places like Oregon. There was no discussion about whether the Constitution permits it—just how it works. And if the law seems to work out—well, the justices may then decide to impose this new world disorder on all Americans. But before the justices begin passing out those black hats, they ought to read a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by Gary Eisler, who lives in Death Central—that is, Oregon. In poignant words, Eisler describes the slow, painful death from cancer of his beloved wife, Bonnie. When the cancer spread from Mrs. Eisler’s breast to her brain, her doctor recommended that all treatment be stopped. Bonnie Eisler spent the last two months of her life in agonizing pain. And yet, Eisler says, many "wonderful things" happened during that time: the birth of their first grandchild, a last Christmas together. Despite his wife’s suffering, Eisler writes that their last hours together were "some of the most intimate and precious of our marriage…. ‘Reason’ and ‘compassion’ would have dictated that Bonnie’s life be ended weeks earlier," Eisler says, "but how much poorer everyone—including her—would have been." Eisler ends his piece with a warning. Unless assisted suicide is repealed, he predicts, "it will not be long before the vultures begin circling." Cancer treatment, after all, is expensive. If Bonnie Eisler had known the cost of her treatments, her husband says, "she might well have felt she was a burden" and opted to kill herself. Eisler asks one final question: "Will what has been ‘optional’ someday become ‘suggested’—and perhaps eventually required?" Those of us who value life must pay close attention to the way the news media depict Oregon’s pioneering new law. We must be ready to set the record straight every time media elites portray physician-assisted suicide as an act of "compassion," as they surely will in the dark days ahead. Otherwise, all Americans may one day be forced to march down the brave new Oregon Trail.


Chuck Colson


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