Faith and Aging
The Presumption of Life No More: The "Safe, Legal, Rare" Misnomer of Euthanasia
Euthanasia or "Physician-Assisted Suicide" continues to gain traction across American culture. Many states now have laws on the books allowing for citizens to end their lives. Framed as a compassionate alternative for those staring down the future of a terminable disease, the "rights" regime attending to American democracy is now offering a "right to die" as a solution to suffering.
Opponents of the practice (of which I consider myself) warn that going down a path of state-sanctioned suicide will have unintended and inhumane consequences. Political communities that permit euthanasia tend toward ever-greater expansion of the practice, and with the difficulty of capping its use, legal regimes find themselves in a newfound presumption against life. Indeed, states that go down the path of euthanasia have a difficult time limiting its eligibility criteria over time; for if autonomy and the elimination of the category of suffering is the measure of its application, what is the limiting principle that prevents some people's experiences from justifying euthanasia?
The chain of consequences from introducing euthanasia as an alternative to suffering are becoming a reality.
In Belgium, a legal minor was granted the right to suicide.
A Christian nursing home in Switzerland lost a court battle in its objection to being required to offer euthanasia to residents who requested or else risk losing its legal status as a charity.
A female sexual abuse victim in Holland was permitted the right to suicide after it was determined that the ongoing trauma of her post-traumatic stress disorder was incurable.
The latest news story, which is what I want to focus on in particular, brings euthanasia as a factor into medical insurance and demonstrates how the dignity of life becomes subject to the utilitarian calculations of an actuarial table.
A California (where euthanasia is now legal) woman with a terminal illness—Stephanie Packer—was denied chemotherapy medication by her insurance company that would potentially prolong her life.
Can you guess what the company did approve paying for? A cocktail of drugs that would end Packer's life.
Let's make the moral calculus of this situation very clear: Because the state of California is now in the business of regulating suicide, an insurance company has done the actuarial math and has pitted life-saving drugs against life-ending drugs. For cost-saving purposes, denying coverage in order to end life is a more effective business strategy than offering coverage to prolong life.
On the one hand, it is barbaric that such considerations were ever possible. On the other hand, insurance companies are trying to cut costs where possible in order to reduce cost and increase profit. But something changed that made these considerations a reality.
Andrew T. Walker serves as Director of Policy Studies at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a doctoral student in Christian Ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the co-editor alongside Russell Moore of The Gospel for Life series. You can follow him on Twitter.