Part of our core mission? Exposing the Left's blatant hypocrisy. Help us continue the fight and support the 2023 Year-End Campaign now.

September 16, 2015

Permission to Die

California Could Become the Fifth State to Misidentify Suicide as a Medical Treatment

In a CNN essay published last October, Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer, explained why she and her husband moved from California to Oregon: so she could legally obtain the barbiturates she would use to kill herself on November 1. “I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity,” she wrote. “My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don’t deserve this choice?”

There was no good answer to that question, and Maynard’s moving story helps explain why California legislators last week approved a bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide, which if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will increase to five the number of states where the practice is allowed. But while Maynard was driven by a determination to maintain her autonomy, her posthumous victory is couched in language that concedes the government’s authority to intrude into the most intimate aspects of our lives.

To take advantage of the Oregon Death With Dignity Act, Maynard had to establish residency in that state, which required finding a new home in Portland, obtaining a new driver’s license, changing her voter registration, finding people to look after her pets and arranging a leave of absence for her husband. As Maynard noted, “The vast majority of families do not have the flexibility, resources and time to make all these changes.”

None of that would have been necessary if Maynard had simply been allowed to walk into a store and walk out with the barbiturates she needed. But because the government has decreed that people must have a permission slip from a state-appointed gatekeeper to obtain these drugs (and many others), she and her husband were forced to uproot themselves during an already trying and tumultuous time.

Rather than recognize the impropriety of dictating to adults what substances they may introduce into their own bodies, California’s legislators decided to allow a new, purportedly medical use of barbiturates, subject to stringent requirements aimed at ensuring that people kill themselves only for the right reasons. But suicide is not a medical treatment, and the government has no business forcing people to remain alive when it disagrees with their reasons for wanting to die.

Maynard said she wanted to “use the medical practice of aid in dying,” which would allow her to “request and receive a prescription from a physician for medication that I could self-ingest to end my dying process if it becomes unbearable.” But if barbiturates are a “medication” in this context, so is cyanide, carbon monoxide, a noose or a bullet.

The medicalization of suicide is driven largely by the drug laws, which give physicians special access to the substances that are most suitable for the purpose. But as Thomas Szasz observes in his book “Fatal Freedom,” calling suicide a “medical practice” also helps disguise the nature of this choice, implying that science can replace morality.

Survey data suggest that framing the issue this way has helped assuage public concerns about letting people leave this world on their own terms. According to a recent Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans agree that “when a person has a disease that cannot be cured and is living in severe pain,” doctors “should be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it.”

Opponents of physician-assisted suicide worry that such requests will be made under duress, that people will kill themselves to spare their families the expense of potentially life-saving treatment. But family pressure is at least as likely to push patients in the opposite direction, encouraging them to endure iffy and arduous treatments when they prefer a quick end.

It is folly to think regulations can ensure the right outcome (however that’s defined) in every case. The most the government should do is make sure each individual’s wishes are respected, even when other people — including people with medical degrees — don’t approve of them.


Start a conversation using these share links:

Who We Are

The Patriot Post is a highly acclaimed weekday digest of news analysis, policy and opinion written from the heartland — as opposed to the MSM’s ubiquitous Beltway echo chambers — for grassroots leaders nationwide. More

What We Offer

On the Web

We provide solid conservative perspective on the most important issues, including analysis, opinion columns, headline summaries, memes, cartoons and much more.

Via Email

Choose our full-length Digest or our quick-reading Snapshot for a summary of important news. We also offer Cartoons & Memes on Monday and Alexander’s column on Wednesday.

Our Mission

The Patriot Post is steadfast in our mission to extend the endowment of Liberty to the next generation by advocating for individual rights and responsibilities, supporting the restoration of constitutional limits on government and the judiciary, and promoting free enterprise, national defense and traditional American values. We are a rock-solid conservative touchstone for the expanding ranks of grassroots Americans Patriots from all walks of life. Our mission and operation budgets are not financed by any political or special interest groups, and to protect our editorial integrity, we accept no advertising. We are sustained solely by you. Please support The Patriot Fund today!

The Patriot Post and Patriot Foundation Trust, in keeping with our Military Mission of Service to our uniformed service members and veterans, are proud to support and promote the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, both the Honoring the Sacrifice and Warrior Freedom Service Dogs aiding wounded veterans, the National Veterans Entrepreneurship Program, the Folds of Honor outreach, and Officer Christian Fellowship, the Air University Foundation, and Naval War College Foundation, and the Naval Aviation Museum Foundation. "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13)


“Our cause is noble; it is the cause of mankind!” —George Washington

Please join us in prayer for our nation — that righteous leaders would rise and prevail and we would be united as Americans. Pray also for the protection of our Military Patriots, Veterans, First Responders, and their families. Please lift up your Patriot team and our mission to support and defend our Republic's Founding Principle of Liberty, that the fires of freedom would be ignited in the hearts and minds of our countrymen.

The Patriot Post is protected speech, as enumerated in the First Amendment and enforced by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, in accordance with the endowed and unalienable Rights of All Mankind.

Copyright © 2023 The Patriot Post. All Rights Reserved.

The Patriot Post does not support Internet Explorer. We recommend installing the latest version of Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome.