Writing@CSU Home Page | Writing Gallery | Talking Back | Volume 5, Issue 1
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not the only one who feels this way. Wesley J. Smith, a former hospice worker, argues against assisted suicide using this same line of reasoning. Smith believes that “access to assisted suicide would inevitably spread to wider categories,” citing the Netherlands as an example. According to Smith, “Dutch doctors have gone from killing terminally ill people who ask for it, to chronically ill people who ask for it, to disabled people who ask for it, to depressed people who aren’t sick who ask for it. And now, Dutch doctors admit to killing babies born with disabilities.”

Smith’s argument may appeal to the emotions of many Americans. However, according to respected moral philosopher James Rachels, the slippery slope argument is easy to abuse, as it involves speculations about the future, which are notoriously hard to evaluate. The culture of the Netherlands is very different than that of the United States. Just because they have taken assisted suicide in a certain direction does not guarantee that the United States will. In fact, the predictions made by critics when Oregon’s Death With Dignity law was first passed in 1994 have not come true. Only one percent of Oregonians request assisted suicide, and of that one percent, only ten percent are authorized and follow through. If anything, we should look to the Netherlands’ experience as an example of what we do not want to do here.

Additionally, Smith’s arguments are based on the 1991 Remmelink Report, an official Dutch government study of euthanasia that is often

cited in the slippery slope arguments. However, the more recent Third Remmelink Report (2003) suggests that the situation in the Netherlands has improved and stabilized since 1991. The Dutch government and people were not pleased with the 1991 findings, and worked to improve the situation. According to the latest report, “there is no empirical support for the supposition that the Netherlands are ‘going downhill’ with regard to life-terminating treatment by physicians… [The situation] appears to have stabilized in recent years.


Another argument brought up by Smith is that assisted suicide would not be necessary if patients had access to proper end-of-life care. According to Smith, once pain management needs are met, the desire to commit suicide disappears. Disability groups agree. Paul Longmore, director of San Francisco State University’s Institute of Disability Studies, says that when patients request assisted suicide, they have been “badly abused by the system.” Longmore argues that assumptions are made that patients request assisted suicide because they do not want to live with their ‘disability’ any longer, instead of considering that they may just need more effective care. In reality, however, Oregon is a leader in end-of-life care. More Oregon residents than the national average have hospice care and receive pain management. Yet

May 2005 Gallup Poll on Assisted Suicide

Evangelical Christians:
63% support euthanasia
32% support assisted suicide

84% support euthanasia
64% support assisted suicide

66% support euthanasia
53% support assisted suicide

79% support euthanasia
57% support assisted suicide

65% support euthanasia
52% support assisted suicide

Source: The Gallup Organization

between sixteen and forty-two patients still request assisted suicide every year. "It's not that their pain can't be controlled," says Katrina Hedberg, a medical epidemiologist for the Oregon Department of Human Services. “It's that to control it they give up what makes their life meaningful.”


The most troubling concern raised against assisted suicide is that vulnerable patients will be taken advantage of. According to Smith, patients may request assisted suicide even when they really do not want to due to pressure from family members, as a result of financial burdens.

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