Friday, October 9, 2009

Illegal Assisted Suicide.

From Lincoln, Nebraska comes a tragic story of two roommates: one is Ryan Johnson, 22, depressed and suicidal. The other, Dallas Huston, 28, now faces charges of helping Johnson commit suicide.

In September, Johnson was found dead in their apartment. Autopsy reports show he consumed sleeping pills then flaced a plastic bag around his head. Huston now faces felony charges for helping his roommate to commit suicide.

According to KETV, Huston could face up to 5 years in jail and $10,000 in fines if convicted of assisting Johnson to kill himself.

Reporting on this case shows the conflation of definitions in one term: assisted suicide. As is legal in three states, assisted suicide or death with dignity, simply protects from prosecution a doctor who prescribes a lethal dose of drugs to a terminal patient (less than 6 months to live) of sound mind who then may or may not self-administers the drugs.

In the past few months the term assisted suicide has been applied to the killing of patients in a hospital in New Orleans during Katrina, and to the death of Michael Jackson. None of these cases have much in common with the legalization of death with dignity as proposed by advocates.

This conflation of definitions allows opponents of death with dignity to argue that all those who wish to kill themselves do so because of depression, an often treatable affliction. Yet death with dignity allows that depression is a symptom, not a cause for the desire to end one's life; insufferable pain and impending death are the cause.

Assisting suicide, as Huston is accused of doing, should be prosecuted. As long as assisted suicide is used to indicate both death with dignity and Johnson's charge, depression will be used as an argument against death with dignity for the terminally ill.

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