Arizona Right to Life opposes all attempts to legalize or condone euthanasia. While once commonly understood as “mercy killing,” the term “euthanasia” now encompasses acts from lethal injection, to “assisting” in suicide, to withholding basic levels of care from non-terminal patients. In all cases of euthanasia, the action or omission is expressly intended to cause the death of a person.
By contrast, Arizona Right to Life supports the tradition which allows persons suffering from a terminal illness to die naturally. Under this centuries-old ethic, patients are not obligated to use extraordinary or heroic medical treatment that would only prolong the dying process. Ordinary care and treatment should be provided to all patients to sustain their daily needs and comfort. When a person has clearly reached their “last days,” the focus of medical treatment may be switched from during to caring, but never to killing.
In the name of true human dignity, we commend those in the medical profession who have committed themselves to advancing pain and symptom management and hospice care. Real compassion for the dying comes through meeting all their needs, physical, emotional, and spiritual. The goal must be to eliminate suffering, not the persons who suffer.
Proponents of euthanasia have carried out a sophisticated plan that has made the killing of defenseless patients a reality. Through the passage of “living will” laws, and the creation of the “substituted judgment” principle by the courts, non-dying incompetent patients, both conscious and unconscious can now be starved and dehydrated to death. The inalienable right to life of some patients rests in the subjective opinion of medical and legal “authorities.”
Euthanasia advocates, such as End of Life Choices, Choice in Dying (formerly the Euthanasia Society of America) and the Hemlock Society, are moving us toward the active involuntary killing of the innocent by focusing on the competent person’s right to choose “death with dignity.” By establishing an affirmative “right to die” for the competent, there would be no significant obstacles to applying it to vulnerable infants, the handicapped and the elderly.
We call upon the medical profession, the media and the public in general to restore the focus of medical treatment on healing and comforting. Human invention must be used to foster life, not destroy it. If the first of all rights – the right to life – is to have meaning, our society must reject the practice of euthanasia.