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Argument: Euthanasia creates a slippery slope to legal murder

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Nat Hentoff, Columnist, The Village Voice. "The Slippery Slope of Euthanasia," The Washington Post. October 3, 1992 - CON: "In debates with those bioethicists and physicians who believe that euthanasia is both deeply compassionate and also a logical way to cut health care costs, I am invariably scorned when I mention 'the slippery slope.' When the states legalize the deliberate ending of certain lives -- I try to tell them -- it will eventually broaden the categories of those who can be put to death with impunity.

I am told that this is nonsense in our age of highly advanced medical ethics. And American advocates of euthanasia often point to the Netherlands as a model -- a place where euthanasia is quasi-legal for patients who request it...

Yet the September 1991 official government Remmelink Report on euthanasia in the Netherlands revealed that at least 1,040 people die every year from involuntary euthanasia. Their physicians were so consumed with compassion that they decided not to disturb the patients by asking their opinion on the matter."[1]


Wesley Smith, J.D., Consultant to the International Task Force on Euthanasia, writes in his 2000 book Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America. - "Oregon is sliding down the same slippery slope as did the Netherlands. Once killing is redefined from bad to good, the protective guidelines for assisted suicide, which advocates assure us will keep the practice of hastening death corralled, are also quickly redefined, at least in practice, as obstacles to be overcome. Then they are attacked, ignored, or reinterpreted, while potential violations go essentially uninvestigated - to the point where they eventually become irrelevant."[2]


Ian Dowbiggin, Ph.D., writes in his 2003 book A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America - "Talk of a right to die raises the troubling questions: once legalized for the dying, who can be denied such a right? The chronically ill, but not dying? Pain-free patients who nonetheless feel their medical conditions leave them with no quality of life? Depressed teenagers? The mentally ill? Handicapped children whose parents wish them dead? Infants with severe disabilities? Where does the freedom to die end and the duty to die begin?

The history of euthanasia in America reminds us that, despite a century of intensive debate and passionate political battles, these questions remain largely unanswered."[3]


Herbert Hendin, M.D., writes in his article "The Slippery Slope: The Dutch Example," that appeared in the Fall 1996 issue of the Duquesne Law Review. - "Once physician-assisted suicide is legally permitted for patients designated as terminally ill, the gradual extension of the practice to ever-widening groups of patients has been referred to as the slippery slope. The Netherlands, where doctors are able to practice euthanasia as long as they follow certain established guidelines, provides an empirical example of what the slippery slope means in actual practice.

Over the past two decades, Dutch law and Dutch medicine have evolved from accepting assisted suicide to accepting euthanasia, and from euthanasia for terminally ill patients to euthanasia for chronically ill individuals. It then evolved from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress. Finally, it evolved from voluntary euthanasia to the practice and conditional acceptance of non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Once the Dutch permitted assisted suicide, it was not possible medically, legally, or morally to deny more active medical help such as euthanasia to individuals who could not effect their own deaths.

Although involuntary euthanasia has not been legally sanctioned by the Dutch, it has increasingly been justified or excused as necessary by the need to relieve suffering patients who are not competent to choose a course of action for themselves.

The inability to regulate euthanasia within established rules is even more slippery. Virtually every guideline established by the Dutch (whether it be a voluntary, well-considered, persistent request; intolerable suffering that cannot be relieved; consultation; or the reporting of cases) has failed to protect patients or has been modified or violated with impunity."[4]


Quoting Herbert Hendin MD - "Over the past two decades, the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia."[5]

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