Zachary Schmoll’s essay today in Public Discourse provides a look at physician-assisted suicide from the perspective of a person living with a disability. In the essay, Schmoll emphasizes the role that legislation plays in influencing public opinion. Regarding the legalization of PAS he writes:
“Such laws communicate the idea that suicide can be a reasonable, moral, and socially acceptable choice, because some lives are no longer valuable. Suicide is prohibited in all other circumstances, sending the message that most lives have value that ought to be protected by law, even when the person in question does not see that value. In certain circumstances, however—specifically, when an individual is losing his or her own independence—such protections need not apply. Society is affirming, by legalizing physician-assisted suicide, that it is better to be dead than disabled. It is better to be in the grave than to live with reduced independence. This message is sent both to people with disabilities like me and everyone else who interacts with us.”
Schmoll’s piece is an important reminder of the persuasive power of legislation as well as the danger of measuring the value of life in terms of independence.