is associate editor of City Journal, where he writes on education and California politics. Previously, he served as managing editor of the Heartland Institute's School Reform News and the Claremont Review of Books. He is also a former editorial writer for Investor's Business Daily and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California. Reach him at
Boychuk writes a weekly column for the Sacramento Bee and Scripps-Howard News Service. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Post, National Review Online, the Korea Times and newspapers across the United States.
Moral, social factors involved are significant
States should not put their seal of approval on suicide. Ever. And that’s what we’re talking about. Not “death with dignity.” Not “aid in dying.” It’s suicide.
Euphemisms will not do.
State-sanctioned, physician- assisted suicide changes the dynamic between doctor and patient, patient and family, and family and doctor. California’s new law may most likely change everybody’s relationship with his or her insurance company, too. If you think it’s difficult getting an insurer’s approval for an expensive cancer treatment now, just wait until the adjusters and actuaries begin weighing the high costs of uncertain therapies against the relatively low cost of a cocktail of suicide drugs.
We could labor over the particulars of what’s wrong with California’s law, such as how it includes language protecting doctors from legal liability in case the procedure goes wrong — or goes right for the wrong reason. But the law’s moral and social implications are far more significant.
Legally sanctioned physician- assisted suicide tends to make suicide more acceptable generally. By all means, let’s look at Oregon’s experience.
The Beaver State has the second-highest suicide rate in the United States — excluding doctor-assisted suicides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013 reported Oregon experienced a 49.3 percent increase in suicides among men and women between the ages of 35 and 64 from 1999-2010, compared to 28 percent nationally.
Oregon passed its law in 1997. And look at what’s happened in Belgium, which passed its assisted suicide law in 2002. There, euthanasia for depressives — not just the terminally ill — is becoming routine.
We’re assured that could never happen here. But if it is “not noble … to require other people — strangers and their families — to endure such agonies,” are we not telling our loved ones to hasten their exit, lest they remain too much of a burden to us? Must we have a pain-free existence at any cost?
Be assured, assisted suicide is neither compassion nor liberation. It represents the further coarsening of a deeply narcissistic culture.
— Ben Boychuk is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Reach him at .org.