Putting Pressure On Nursing Home Residents

By Rob Williams

As far as I know there are no laws against suicide in the United States. If someone is saved after they attempt suicide, they are not jailed. What we are talking about is not opposing a right to commit suicide, but rather the right to kill ANOTHER person. That's what assisted suicide is.

I have spent a good deal of time with elderly family members in nursing homes. I have no doubt that the passage of laws legalizing assisted suicide would be a horribly cruel blow to the millions of weak, elderly people of our society. When I say weak, I mean weak in body, mind, and/or emotions. These people, even now, are completely dependant on the caregivers- the doctors, the nurses, and the support staff of these institutions. It takes no effort for me to imagine a situation where these people are placed in a society where they are expected to die if they reach a state where they cannot care for themselves or where they are eating up their life savings to the point where their relatives will not receive an inheritance.

Try one possible senerio: an elderly woman who was brought up to believe that she would be damned for all eternity if she commits suicide (which belief is probably shared by the great majority of our population). I can imagine the staff treating her with disdain or worse because she will not do what other people in similar circumstances are doing, namely allowing doctors to kill her. In a society where this "right" becomes the norm, this type of thing will happen over and over again in the privacy of our thousands of nursing homes. It brings great sadness to me to imagine these people spending their last days in a society where they are expected to approve their own deaths.

I am talking about someone's "right" to kill an elderly person when the latter is pressured to say "yes" or the latter is not fully capable mentally and their family (who will inherit money) will make the decision. I can think of so many more such scenarios. I have seen and spoken with hundreds of these people- they are weak, they are confused, they easily misunderstand what people ask them, they easily agree with things they only partially understand. They have operations and are temporarily "out of it" and a few weeks later are "back to their old selves". They are depressed and feel they are a burden on others. They are vulnerable.

Today, many who cry for assisted-suicide "rights" are young and in full control of their lives and health. Everyone is not so lucky. On the euthanasia.com web site there are links to groups of disabled folks who are really afraid of what will happen to them if society crosses that new line- allowing one person the right to kill another. In a time when HMOs are trying to cut costs, if assisted suicide is considered a valid alternative, I have no doubt that they are right in their fears. Even now in Oregon we hear of many medical treatments not being considered for state insurance- while assisted suicide costs are covered.

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