Nations that have legalized assisted suicide or euthanasia have higher rates of “self-initiated” suicides, a result that some experts contend has been a predictable side effect of making it legal for people to end their lives in certain circumstances.
A recent study, "Does Legalizing Assisted Suicide Make Things Better Or Worse?" published earlier this month by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, derived its conclusion from multiple studies in Europe and North America.
The studies found that the rates of self-inflicted suicides increased alongside the number of physician-assisted suicide deaths. The study found that women were the most likely to die by self-inflicted suicide in jurisdictions that have permitted euthanasia and assisted suicide.
Wesley J. Smith, chair and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism, a conservative think-tank, said he doesn't find the study’s results surprising.
“Assisted suicide advocacy is, literally, suicide advocacy, even if promoters deploy deflecting euphemisms such as, ‘aid in dying,’” Smith said in a statement to The Christian Post. “A society can’t be pro-some suicides and then be surprised that some suicidal people outside the permitted categories think it includes them.”
Smith cited an opinion piece he wrote for The National Review where he expanded on the topic. He asserts that the popular culture and the law pushing “some suicides” sends the message to people with thoughts of suicide that killing themselves is “proper.”
The senior fellow noted that such messaging might encourage these individuals to take “lethal action.”
“Encouraging and aiding suicide for some — while trying to prevent others from killing themselves — is inconsistent and over time, untenable,” he wrote. “We either try to prevent them all, or eventually we will end up akin to where Germany is now, thanks to a court ruling: suicide on demand for any reason — or no reason at all.”
Germany legalized physician-assisted suicide in 2020, with its top court arguing that a previous law banning the practice breached the country's Constitution.
As Reuters reported in 2021, the country’s ruling coalition, the Social Democrats, presented draft legislation to require patients considering it to prove the decision is not based on impulse and is not the result of pressure.
Members of Germany’s opposition party drew up a separate draft, requiring two doctors to provide an opinion before patients can be given a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital.
“Euthanasia is particularly sensitive in Germany due to the legacy of the Nazis, who murdered an estimated 300,000 people with disabilities and psychological ailments under its ‘euthanasia’ program here because their lives were deemed unworthy,” Reuters reported.
Italy also recently legalized the practice of assisted suicide, with the Italian Constitutional Court ruling in 2019 that the practice is permitted under certain circumstances. The court decided that assisted suicide is permitted for those in intense pain with no hope of recovery or who have expressed a clear wish to die.
In June, the country carried out its first-ever assisted suicide on 44-year-old Federico Carboni, who goes by the pseudonym “Mario.” An accident on the road in 2010 rendered the truck driver a quadriplegic, and he opted to end his life by lethal injection in the Eastern Marche region of the southern European country.
Carboni had thought of traveling to Switzerland to end his life, but he took legal action in 2020 in Italy instead.
The Associazione Luca Coscioni, the pro-euthanasia organization that represented him, revealed the man’s last words:
"I do not have a minimum of autonomy in everyday life, I am at the mercy of events. I depend on others for everything, I am like a boat adrift in the ocean. I am aware of my physical condition and future prospects so I am totally calm and calm about what I will do."
Smith highlighted what he saw as “several notable issues involving assisted suicide seeping into Italy” in an earlier statement to CP.
"First, this is because of a court ruling, not a law, although legalization is being debated in the Italian Parliament," Smith said. "Second, the patient who killed himself was not terminally ill, but paralyzed — illustrating the fact that assisted suicide isn't about terminal illness."
The Discovery Institute fellow argued that the legalization of assisted suicide stems from "a philosophy that sees death as a splendid response to suffering caused by serious disease, disability, mental illness and the morbidities of old age."
"The court ruling reflects the contemporary view in the West that is fast becoming pro-some suicides, a policy that basically says that we will try and prevent suicides of the young and of veterans, but that the deaths of people with serious illnesses or disabilities we will facilitate," he continued.
In May, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed S.74 into law, a bill that amended the state’s assisted suicide statute to expand access to life-ending drugs.
Under the previous law, patients with a terminal illness and a six-month prognosis were required to make two in-person visit requests 15 days apart to a prescribing physician. Patients also had to visit another consulting physician to make a written request and wait 48 hours after receiving the prescription to use it.
The new law eliminated the in-person physical examination requirement, allowing physicians to determine a patient’s eligibility to take life-ending drugs via remote consultation. It also removes the 48-hour waiting period between when the physician writes the prescription and the patient uses it.
"Once the principle is established that suicide is an acceptable answer to human suffering and that the state will facilitate that effort, then the supposed guidelines that are promised to protect against abuse soon come to be seen as obstacles," Smith previously told CP in May.
"Anyone who is suicidal, and none of us knows what might stimulate us to fall into that darkness, should be given the same life-affirming care that says, 'We need you, we want you here,” he continued.
“Let us do what it takes to help you maintain your life."
Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.