The continued efforts to allow physician assisted suicide (as great a horror as physician assisted abortion) is making headway, and the strong response from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is very welcome, and well-analyzed in this Culture of Life article.
“WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 6, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Political advocacy for assisted suicide in the United States dates back to the eugenics movement of the early 20th century and the failed Ohio euthanasia bill of 1906.
“Activists organized themselves in the 1930s around the former Protestant minister Charles Potter (who first abandoned the Baptist and then the Unitarian church because both were too conservative), and formed the Euthanasia Society of America. The movement remained on the social fringe until the 1970s, when the case of Karen Ann Quinlan mobilized its energies.
“The 21-year-old Quinlan was diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) after suffering severe brain injury from oxygen deprivation. After several months of ventilator support without improvement, her parents requested that the hospital remove the ventilator and leave her to die.
“The battle was fought in the courts and on the front pages of newspapers throughout the country. Although the central ethical question concerned the removal of life support and not intentional euthanasia, the case became a cause célèbre for the still fringe right-to-die movement, which found its social voice arguing for the inhumanity of forcing disabled patients to linger in their disabilities.
“The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in favor of her parent's petition, and the ventilator was removed in 1976. But because Karen's family continued to feed her, she lived for another nine years. The courts and the country were not yet ready for the "merciful starvation" requests that were bound to follow in the 1990s. And follow they did.
“In 1990, the euthanasia movement mobilized around the family of Nancy Cruzan, a 33-year-old woman diagnosed in a PVS after suffering a brain injury in a terrible car accident. The family petitioned to remove her feeding tube and the U.S. Supreme Court, after some hesitation, ruled in favor of the request. Her starvation lasted for 12 days.
“The liberty to refuse life support was only an interim step for euthanasia activists. All along the goal was full-fledged intentional self-killing legally facilitated by the medical community, or physician assisted suicide (PAS).”