Wednesday, February 21 , 2018, 7:56 pm | Fair 52º


Randy Alcorn: Brittany Maynard Suicide Wish Her Personal Free Choice

Is there a more sovereign exercise of personal freedom than suicide? It is the ultimate choice of free will over the ultimate personal possession — one’s own physical existence. Although one’s death is usually unplanned and unscheduled, it can also be deliberate. People can choose the time, place and method of their own death. That is, if others do not interfere with that choice.

But of course they do, and for various reasons. Family and friends do not want to lose people they love, which is understandable, but arguably selfish. Other people object to suicide on religious or ethical grounds and oppose any efforts that facilitate it. As is typical with self-certain moralists, these people seek to control the lives of others by forbidding and punishing victimless free choices that they find objectionable.

While a safe, sane society requires a code of personal conduct to which all citizens must adhere, those who work to expand that code to include personal beliefs that they consider universally correct and applicable to everyone overstep the reasonable restraints that protect society. Such busybodies seek to prohibit and punish individual free choices that do no real harm to others, but that offend the busybodies’ moral sensibilities and violate their prescription for how life should be lived — and how life should be ended.

The issue of assisted suicide, somewhat submerged since the Jack Kevorkian days, has resurfaced with the case of Brittany Maynard, who, afflicted with a lethal brain tumor, has publicized her decision to end her own life rather than endure the pain and indignity of a dreadful, lingering death. She moved to Oregon, one of a handful of states that allows doctor-assisted suicide, and scheduled her own death for Nov. 1.

That decision and her outspoken advocacy for death with dignity have the aforementioned busybodies buzzing about like disturbed hornets. Some say Maynard should meet her fate, endure the writhing agony, the humiliation of losing control of all bodily functions, and let death take her when it will. Others say that if even a few irrecoverably ill people are allowed assistance in ending their lives, soon thousands of people will expect the same accommodation.

They might, and so what?

More states may very well legalize euthanasia if for no other reason than that tens of millions of Baby Boomers are now moving into old age. They do not want to suffer the pain and indignities of physical and mental deterioration that many have witnessed with the demise and lingering deaths of their own parents. Nor do they want to be an emotional and financial burden on their families.

Some argue that support for euthanasia is motivated by money. Well, certainly to some extent it is — very little in America isn’t — but that would not invalidate suicide as a personal right or euthanasia as a rationally merciful practice. The euthanasia opponents, however, warn that grandma would be pressured into assisted suicide so the kids could preserve their inheritances.

Really? Let’s look at the economics of delayed death.

American health care is the world’s most costly, and, whether nonprofit or for-profit, it is a revenue-ravenous industry accounting for more than 17 percent of annual GDP. A substantial portion of the revenue river cascading into this huge industry derives from end-of-life care. The Health and Human Services Department reports that 40 percent of national health-care costs are incurred by seniors. About 28 percent of Medicare costs are incurred for treating patients in the last six months of their lives.

The financially hemorrhaging Medicare system, now accounting for nearly 18 percent of total annual federal spending, expends 30 percent of its annual funding on the 5 percent of its beneficiaries who die within the year.

Meanwhile, predatory end-of-life-care businesses often game that system. They canvass hospitals to recruit terminally ill patients, cherry-picking those who will take longer to die so they can charge Medicare as much as three times the annual reimbursement cap. Once Medicare reimbursements are exhausted, they maximize profits by sending home any patients who have hung on too long.

Clearly, delaying death is big business in America and to the extent euthanasia diminishes that business’ revenues, it is about the money. But, it is hardly about greedy relatives unplugging grandma from life support.

Rational, compassionate health care should be about prolonging life rather than prolonging death. Euthanasia is far less an issue of anybody’s money than it is about mercy, compassion and honoring personal freedom. That people who have clearly and in sound mind made known their wish to die on their own terms should be forced to suffer a lingering wretched death so that others can increase profits, or impose religious beliefs or personal philosophies is monstrous.

As a society we punish criminals by locking them up in small cells for long periods of time. By forcing people to live in irreparably broken bodies and bodies wracked with unrelenting pain we are locking them up in prisons far worse than any endured by convicted criminals. There is no rational justification for such cruelty.

— 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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