Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 1:32 pm | Fair 59º


Randy Alcorn: News of Larry Crandell’s Death Spurs Thoughts on Pillars and Busybodies

As pillars of the community go, Larry Crandell stood among the tallest and sturdiest Santa Barbara has ever known — figuratively and literally.

As the master of ceremonies of the many charitable fundraising events that enrich this singular community, he was the towering, engaging frontman rallying Santa Barbara’s exceptional spirit of philanthropy and volunteerism.

His glib rhetoric, punctuated with good-natured sharp wit, opened wide many checkbooks for worthy causes.

Hearing of Larry’s death last week, I recalled the conversations we had 10 or so years ago at his cherished Coral Casino cabana. He had invited me to lunch after reading a column I had written supporting death-with-dignity rights.

Having recently become an octogenarian, he was confronting the reality of mortality with philosophical resignation. His only real fear was how he would die. He did not want to suffer a lingering agonizing death and the loss of personal dignity.

I confessed that I shared that fear.

He gave me a book, Final Exit, by Derek Humphry, founder of the former Hemlock Society(now known as the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization), which provides practical information on suicide methods for the terminally ill. He asked me to read it and rejoin him at the cabana in three weeks to discuss it.

When we again met he asked about my thoughts on the book. I replied that of all the methods to end one’s life covered in the book, the most peaceful, comfortable and dignified was a lethal dosage of prescription drugs. He agreed but, regrettably, that method required a cooperating doctor who would be risking his or her career, and possible jail time.

Since that meeting, more than a decade ago, California and several other states have passed laws allowing physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. However, California’s law is being challenged in the courts by a small group of California physicians and the American Academy of Medical Ethics — aka the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.

Although California’s law in no way mandates physicians to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to terminal patients — any doctor can refuse to do so—the plaintiffs in this case are insisting that all doctors be forbidden from assisting terminally ill patients to end their lives, regardless of the patient’s direct, unambiguous requests for that assistance.

The plaintiffs’ argument is that the law will be subject to abuse and will erode medical ethics — at least the plaintiff’s notion of those ethics.

Although all states with assisted-suicide laws have a number of safeguards against abuse, the fear that some people who might benefit from accelerating the death of an ailing family member will pressure that member to opt for suicide is not unfounded. However, that fear is exaggerated and an invalid reason to deny personal freedom of choice for suicide or any other victimless personal choice.

Only when an exercise of freedom causes real harm to others should there be legal consequences.

If the standard for prohibiting freedom is the risk that some people could harm themselves in the exercise of it, then the list of prohibitions will be extensive. Life is replete with choices of activities and behaviors that have risk, from playing football to eating fast food.

But, if some people — no matter how relatively few — incur harm doing something, then busybodies want to regulate or prohibit it.

If some people become addicted to a drug, then no one can have that drug. If some people die in car crashes because they did not wear a seatbelt, then everybody must wear a seatbelt. If a small number of people misuse certain firearms, then no one should have that firearm. And the list goes on and on.

Following busybody reasoning, because some people become morbidly obese, then everyone must maintain a government-prescribed diet limiting food quantity and choices.

In their crusade to save us from ourselves, busybodies will invoke inflated fears, religious beliefs and personal morals to justify enslaving all of society with the shackles of their world view.

Fueled by the certainty of their convictions, busybodies have a burning desire to convert the whole world to their moral or cultural standards. And, as zealots have always done, when their arguments fail to persuade, they resort to force and try to impose their beliefs through the power of law — which is ultimately the power of the sword.

Is there any human right more personal or more fundamental than the right to choose the time and manner of one’s death? Yet, those guardians of medical ethics and those stalwarts of religious morality who are suing to revoke California’​a End of Life Option Act want to interfere with that right because they arrogantly believe that their idea of morality, their approach to life is best for everyone.

Larry Crandell died at 93, at his home and surrounded by family and friends — a final exit as dignified and peaceful as he wished it to be. And I hope that yours and mine will be also — if not naturally, then with requested assistance from a compassionate physician.

It is our right.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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