Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization
BY KEVIN YUILL
PALGRAVE MACMILLAN, 208 PAGES, $85
I have always believed that liberals should be the euthanasia movement's natural enemies. The liberalism to which I committed myself in my youth was concerned with expanding the moral community by ending racism and protecting weak and vulnerable people against exploitation and abuse. Today's liberalism is increasingly concerned with advancing personal desires at the expense of societal norms. It favors narrative and appeals to emotion more than principle.
Perhaps that is why movement liberalism increasingly embraces the cause of legalizing assisted suicide. Gone are the days when social outlaws and unhinged advocates like Jack Kevorkian and Derek Humphry represented the "movement." Its leaders are now mostly well-tailored (and well-paid) professional advocates who consciously seek to tie assisted suicide to more popular liberal causes such as feminism, gay rights, and abortion. They focus intensely on personal stories of suffering and avoid discussing the impact that legalized killing as an answer to human suffering would have on society and its most vulnerable populations.
Enter Kevin Yuill, an historian at the University of Sunderland in the United Kingdom, a self-described atheist and adamant secularist who disdains conservative opinion and freely spouts canards about the opponents of assisted suicide. He insists, for example, that the primary arguments against legalization are religious, when in fact even the most religious opponents mostly use rational arguments in the public square.
He also falsely accuses conservative opponents of vitalism, that is, of wanting to force all to undergo intensive life support to the bitter end. He is apparently unaware that even Catholic moral teaching clearly permits dying patients to refuse such care when the suffering it causes is "disproportionate to the expected outcome." In fact, Pope John Paul II did just that.
Having proved his bona tides to the target audience for Assisted Suicide: The Liberal, Humanist Case Against Legalization--atheists, political progressives, adamant secular humanists--Yuill offers an often compelling humanistic argument supporting the prohibition of doctor-prescribed death. He accepts the narrative of those who want to help suffering loved ones out of the world, while still seeking to protect the vulnerable. Thus, he argues that "spontaneous compassion" is...