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Compassion And Choices: A Troubling Case Study

“Silence gives consent,” according to St. Thomas More.

That deafening silence was evident on CBS Sunday Morning last month during an interview with Barbara Coombs Lee, a leading advocate for physician-assisted suicide and president of Compassion and Choices.

When did she remain silent? She did so when Eve Eliot, the grieving wife of an ALS patient offered an emotional argument to support physician-assisted suicide as a compassionate choice to end one’s life. Her husband starved himself to death.

Coombs Lee had an opportunity to correct the record during her interview. Current legislation in states where physician-assisted suicide is legal (California, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Vermont) would not have included Eliot’s husband. Legislation specifically requires that two physicians determine that a person be within six months of death.

To be sure, ALS is a terrible, chronic, deteriorating diagnosis that ultimately ends one’s life. However, it does not have a six-month course. In fact, more than half of those diagnosed live more than three years. Coombs Lee chose to remain silent.

Eliot also stated that her husband could not even “lift a spoon to his mouth.” Legislation clearly requires that the individual must be capable of self-administering the prescribed lethal dose.

My question is this: How would he have been able to self-administer 100 dissolved capsules of Secobarbital in a full glass of liquid if he was incapable of lifting even a spoon to his mouth? Coombs Lee remained silent again.

Barbara Coombs Lee on CBS

I take strong issue with the manipulation of the public’s emotions regarding the legalization of of this practice. Physician-assisted suicide is serious business, as our government is re-drawing the boundaries of protected life. At one time, we were protected from conception to natural death. In the aforementioned states, we are now protected from 22 weeks in utero to six months before natural death.

Before our legislators are asked to pass such laws, it behooves citizens to do their homework. We should not be manipulated by a loved one’s suffering or the lack of transparency from articulate moral entrepreneurs attempting to advance their agendas.

How would he have been able to self-administer 100 dissolved capsules of Secobarbital in a full glass of liquid if he was incapable of lifting even a spoon to his mouth?

Why did the president of Compassion and Choices remain silent? Eliot’s story, albeit not fitting, supported the goals of this organization. The CBS clip provides an emotionally compelling argument to offer ALS patients an alternative way to end their suffering. However, the Eliots’ story misrepresented the facts of the legislation legalized in five states and proposed in others.

As the discussion of physician-assisted suicide continues to gallop through the Statehouses of this country, we need facts, not silence and misinformation. Coombs Lee made it clear that New York State is her movement’s next focus. Hopefully, New Yorkers will not consider Sunday morning television the repository for the facts.

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