Michigans Proposal B – Debating Points

by Fr. Charles Irvin

September,1998



“It’s okay for you to die in suffering and in pain, but don’t force me to! It’s un-American to deny me my freedom of choice,” they cry. But when you look at reality you see that anyone who wishes to already has the right to commit suicide. Why, then, must we have state-licensed assistants as a matter of public policy do it for them?

Michigan’s Proposal B, the mercy killing proposal, in its Section 3 calls for a SECRET COMMITTEE to administer mercy killing in Michigan. It’s deliberations and acts are EXEMPT from the Open Meeting Act as well as the Freedom of Information Act. What it establishes and what it does is kept in strict secrecy; it can even order Death Certificates to have the stated Cause of Death changed to whatever they want in order to hide the fact that the deceased’s life was taken via euthanasia or mercy killing. It call for cremation of the remains without a prior autopsy, thus eliminating any hope of establishing cause of death.

Did you know that this Secret Suicide Committee is established by the State of Michigan and that your tax dollars will fund and support its activities?

Did you know that the members of this secret committee are not elected by the people of the State of Michigan, nor are they accountable to the people? They are political appointees of the governor and accountable only to him/her.

With the passage of Proposal B, we would be known as the State that has always prohibited the death penalty — but now we are the State that is into mercy killing.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly stated (even in Roe v. Wade) that the state has a compelling interest in the preservation of human life, an interest that overrides so-called rights to privacy.

The existing set of values as expressed in the public laws of our various fifty states prohibit assisted suicide, the one exception now being Oregon. So when it comes to “imposing values on others” it is Mr. Kevorkian and his attorneys who are attempting to write new law as well as impose their values on us, not the other way around.
There is, as we all know so very well, a separation between Church and State. There is not, however, a separation of religious values from society, even though that is what Kevorkian and his followers must accomplish in order to prevail.

There is a distinction in law, one carefully observed by the U.S. Supreme Court in arriving at its decisions in these matters, between directly intending to cause death on the one hand, and on the other intending to do something that does not directly cause death even when it is known that death will likely result from the agreed upon activity. In other words, one can directly intend to kill another human being — or one can indirectly allow another human being to die. This is a distinction with an enormous difference.

It is likewise a distinction that is employed in moral theology where it is known as the “Principle of Double Effect.” One can without culpability intend to do something while realizing that another consequence, a bad consequence, is likely to result. One can, for instance, intend to remove a cancerous uterus knowing that the fetus within it will die . . . and that intention is morally acceptable. The intention, you see, is to remove the cancer, not to kill the fetus.

Prescribing large doses of pain medication is morally acceptable, even at levels where the amount of that medication may induce a shut down of vital organs. Our intention is morally legitimate. The effect is in the hands of God.

We founded a Republic of United States built upon the principle that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them being the right to life. Unalienable is the controlling word; it means that life cannot be either taken away or given away, which is to say that life is something that inheres in our very nature. To snuff it out is to usurp it from God. Human life comes from our Creator, it is not granted to us by monarch or parliament, Congress or Supreme Court. Coming from our Creator, human life belongs to our Creator, not to our government.

The Assisted Suicide Movement (sometimes they present themselves as The Right to Die Movement) seeks to tear us away from our legal tradition as well as from our nation’s founding principle that human life is unalienable. Its proponents are attempting to impose their new and radical values on the existing fabric of our moral, legal and constitutional order. To accomplish this purpose the Euthanasia Movement must disconnect morality from law.

Presently we have a rather narrow range of state-sanctioned forms of taking human life, namely the killings permitted in justifiable self-defense, the killings permitted in war, and the killings authorized by use of deadly force on the part of law enforcement officials. Mercy killing (or assisted suicide, as it is now promoted) should be added, the promoters say, to the list — a list on which capital punishment is not found here in Michigan.

We have the right to reject or to terminate life-sustaining medical procedures. Some call this “Passive Euthanasia.” It places an already dying person back into the position of being supported in life by nature alone, without the presence of any outside medicine, machine, procedure or external agency that supports or sustains in life the already dying person

The so-called “Right to Die” along with the alleged “right to euthanasia” were the ones rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court last year in the Washington v. Glucksberg and Quill v. Vacco cases wherein it was claimed that there exists a newly discovered constitutional right to “Assisted Suicide.” Jack Kevorkian’s attorneys and supporters have aggressively and emotionally pressed the claim that assisted suicide is a right of privacy (the “Right to Die” is their slogan) guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court has expressly disagreed, finding no such right in our Constitution

Note the parallel between this argument and the arguments brought forward in the initial debates on legalizing abortion, particularly that what is deemed permissible is not thereby required. Highlight this parallel because, with the legalization of abortion for a few exceptional cases, this argument has led to tens of millions of deaths. And so with assisted suicide I believe that while it may be regarded as permissible in a few cases, it will eventually become something to be demanded.

We need to have enough foresight to recognize that once we license someone to mercifully kill another person we will then face the problem of how we shall ever be sure that the deceased’s request to be put to death was fully deliberated and made in complete freedom from emotion or psychic compulsion?

One is “Voluntary Euthanasia”, the other “Involuntary Euthanasia.” Voluntary Euthanasia is found in the situation in which persons wishing to die have expressed their wishes to either be allowed to die naturally or to be put to death. “Involuntary Euthanasia” is the situation in which persons are put to death with a presumption that they would wish to die if they either could have expressed their will to do so, or if they had an adequate understanding of their dire condition.

Proposal B contains a specific provision which I regard as extremely ominous, even diabolically cunning. Section 3 calls for a gubernatorially appointed (and just WHO dearly wants to be our next Governor?) publicly funded oversight committee, exempt from the Open Meetings Act and whose records, including confidential medical records, and minutes are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. In other words, the watchdog agency is not composed of elected officials, they are political appointments of the governor, and what they think, say and do is to be kept secret, without public accountability.

We must recall that it was no accident that Adolph Hitler and his Nazis were the first to raise euthanasia to the level of legal principle and thence to public policy. His regime was the quintessential Culture of Death, a culture that grew out of notions of developing a race of super men and women, free from all defect, free from all infirmity, free from all that would limit us.