by Chuck Colson
Last week Oregonians blazed a new Oregon trail: They voted to retain
the state's physician-assisted suicide law. Overnight, Oregon became the
only place in the world where physicians are legally empowered to help
patients kill themselves. Doctors may now throw out the Hippocratic Oath
and ask themselves: "Which hat shall I wear today: the white hat of mercy
or the black hat of death?"
Both supporters and opponents of the law describe Oregon as a laboratory
in which the viability of physician-assisted suicide will be tested. If
the experiment is deemed successful, however, the chilling result will
go far beyond Oregon's borders: The supreme Court may use the Oregon law
to force all states to legalize assisted suicide.
It will not be long before the vultures begin circling.
The Supreme court tipped its hand last June in a case called Washington
v. Glucksberg, in which it unanimously ruled that there's no constitutional
right to physician-assisted suicide. That sounds like good news-but in
reality this ruling meant only that the justices were still a little squeamish:
They were not quite ready-yet to embrace a constitutional right to physician-assisted
Justice Souter in particular said he first wanted to see how the law
works out in places like Oregon. There was no discussion about whether
the Constitution permits it-just how it works. And if the law seems to
work out-well, the justices may then decide to impose this new world disorder
on all Americans.
But before the justices begin passing out those black hats, they ought
to read a recent op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by Gary
Eisler, who lives in Death CentralÑthat is, Oregon.
In poignant words, Eisler describes the slow, painful death from cancer
of his beloved wife, Bonnie. When the cancer spread from Mrs. Eisler's
breast to her brain, her doctor recommended that all treatment be stopped.
Bonnie Eisler spent the last two months of her life in agonizing pain.
And yet, Eisler says, many "wonderful things" happened during that time:
the birth of their first grandchild, a last Christmas together.
Despite his wife's suffering, Eisler writes that their last hours together
were "some of the most intimate and precious of our marriage....
"Reason" and "compassion" would have dictated that Bonnie's life be
ended weeks earlier,' Eisler says, "but how much poorer everyone"including
her "would have been."
Eisler ends his piece with a warning. Unless assisted suicide is repealed,
he predicts, "it will not be long before the vultures begin circling."
Cancer treatment, after all, is expensive. If Bonnie Eisler had known the
cost of her treatments, her husband says, "she might well have felt she
was a burden" and opted to kill herself.
Eisler asks one final question: "Will what has been "optional" someday
become "suggested"- and perhaps eventually required?"
Those of us who value life must pay close attention to the way the news
media depict Oregon's pioneering new law. We must be ready to set the record
straight every time media elites portray physician-assisted suicide as
an act of "compassion," as they surely will in the dark days ahead.
Otherwise, all Americans may one day be forced to march down the brave
new Oregon Trail.