I received a form letter the other day from Kathryn Tucker, of the euphemistically named “Compassion and Choices” (C & C), which came into being as part of a merger with the honestly named Hemlock Society. The letter referenced a law review article I wrote way back in 2007, which she claimed to have “enjoyed reading.” But she had a concern. You see, in the article I used the accurate and descriptive term, “assisted suicide” for the action of a doctor intentionally providing an overdose to a patient for use in suicide. Tucker helpfully suggested that I seriously consider using the term, “aid in dying” in the future, as being somehow more “accurate.” She even included a letter from another well know assisted suicide advocate thanking C & C for bringing the correct “aid in dying” terminology to his attention. What. A. Crock.
I know Kathryn. We testified at the same time some years ago at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on assisted suicide. In 2007, we were invited to publicly debate the issue at the Houston Holocaust Museum, after which we had dinner together with our host. At the dinner, she couldn’t stop herself from talking “shop,” as it were — even though we had agreed to leave it at the museum. No question, she is a true believer.
I was tempted to write back to her, essentially stating, “Not on a bet! Aid-in-dying is a focus group-tested euphemism, intended to promote suicide as an acceptable answer to the difficulties associated with serious illness.” But she knows that — after all, she is one of the architects of the advocacy tactic — so why waste her time and mine?
I bring this up because the latest push in the UK to legalize assisted suicide is using a similar euphemism; “assisted dying.” But an opponent is having none of it. From the Telegraph story:
Lord Falconer’s Bill will go before the Lords on Wednesday. Based on the conclusions of an informal commission on assisted dying he chaired last year, the Bill would introduce a system whereby doctors can provide terminally ill patients with a fatal dose of drugs. “It is termed ‘assisted dying’ rather than ‘assisted suicide’ as it would be limited to people who are terminally ill with a prognosis of six months or less to live.
But Lord Carlile branded the distinction “nonsense.” In law, as in the English language, if you take your own life, whatever your state of health, that is suicide; and a doctor, or anyone else, who supplies you with the means to do so is assisting suicide,” he wrote. “Sound law-making demands clarity. It cannot be based on euphemisms, verbal evasions or Orwellian spin.”
Precisely. This issue is too important for crooked talk. The agenda is pro (some) suicides. Pretending otherwise is intellectually dishonest.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: When a social and political movement feels the need to hide its true agenda behind obfuscating gooey euphemisms, it is a good bet that there is something seriously wrong with its agenda.