TOPEKA, Kan. — Members of the Kansas House of Representatives are considering passing a resolution condemning physician-assisted suicide and promoting palliative care at the end of one’s life instead.
While euthanasia is already illegal in Kansas, HCR 5010 was introduced last month by the Committee on Health and Human Services to make a statement supporting the value of life.
“Kansas has an unqualified interest in the preservation of human life, and this state’s prohibition on assisting suicide, like all homicide laws, both reflects and advances its commitment to this,” the resolution reads in part. “The legalization of assisted suicide sends a message that suicide is a socially acceptable response to aging, terminal illnesses, disabilities and depression and subsequently imposes a ‘duty to die.'”
“[T]he legislature strongly opposes and condemns physician-assisted suicide because anything less than a
prohibition leads to foreseeable abuses and eventually to euthanasia by devaluing human life, particularly the lives of the terminally ill, elderly, disabled and depressed whose lives are of no less value or quality than any other citizen of this state,” it declares.
The resolution rather recommends palliative care for the terminally ill, as it “continues to improve and is nearly always successful in relieving pain and allowing a person to die naturally, comfortably and in a dignified manner without a change in the law.”
Steve Brunk of the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, a former state representative, testified on Monday that he believes the resolution is important because it encourages efforts to save life and not to take it.
“In our culture we do almost everything—through business, through the medical society, through highway construction and legislatively—to enhance life and enhance the quality of life,” he said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Our cars are safer and safer with seatbelts and airbag cushions. We do those things because we value life and we want to see the quality of life enhanced and we want to protect people.”
“[Through the resolution] we’re trying to protect the good culture that Kansas already has where we recognize the value of every life and that every life is worth fighting for, so what we see on the horizon is in some ways a negation of that. We don’t want Kansas to become a part of that,” Brunk stated. “We want to be able to stop it before it comes here.”
But Rep. Greg Lakin, R-Wichita, a physician, expressed doubt at some of the language in the resolution and questioned what exactly constitutes physician-assisted suicide.
“What is the definition of suicide really? Is it turning off a vent when they’ve been brain dead for months? Is it an absolute refusal to force tube feeding?” Lakin said. “Is it not acting? This raises all kinds of other issues.”
However, some note that in states where euthanasia is currently legal, most seeking to end their lives don’t even cite the physical ailment as the leading motivation.
“[M]ost people making use of Oregon’s death with dignity act in 2016—the figures came out just three weeks ago— cited existential or spiritual symptoms as their reason,” Dr. Peter Saunders of the Care Not Killing Alliance recently outlined to the New Zealand Health Select Committee on Assisted Suicide.
“89.5% cited loss of autonomy, an identical percentage cited being less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable and 65% loss of dignity. Pain, or even concern about it, did not feature in the top five,” he explained. “More worryingly 48.9% cited being a burden on family, friends or caregivers. The equivalent figure in neighboring Washington state the year before was 52%.”
Saunders therefore declared that suicide is not the answer, but care infused with hope.
“I would submit that it is an abuse of medicine to treat fear of the future or loss of meaning and hope with lethal injections or draughts of barbiturates,” he said. “The best response to existential suffering is to do all we can to restore hope and allay fear by caring for the needs of the whole person.”