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Why Assisted Suicide Matters to Young People

Posted by Margaret Akers on 1 February 2019


Death – not something many young people want to spend their time thinking about. This is especially true if we consider a death that is drawn-out and potentially painful due to terminal illness. It is easy, when we’re young, to pretend we will never die and ignore those things that suggest otherwise. But this is unwise. There are many people campaigning to make assisted suicide legal in this country (as we reported on yesterday). We need to make it clear that this is not good for society.

Dignity in Dying, a campaigning organisation in favour of physician assisted suicide, has begun establishing societies at various British universities. They understand well the importance of having young people on board with their cause. Pro-life students and young people, in response, must speak out against assisted suicide and be a voice in defence of preserving life and upholding human dignity.

You may have loved ones, for whom you are expected to make decisions

There may come a time when we are responsible for making choices for a family member regarding end of life care. If we find ourselves in that position, it’s important we know our own mind and theirs. We need to be conscious of the ways our language affects them, and may make them feel burdensome. It will be our job to ensure their life is respected and protected, and that they are treated with the utmost dignity. How much harder these tasks will be if the option for assisted suicide is always looming at their back. How easy it would be for them to think, ‘well, her life would be so much simpler if she wasn’t burdened caring for me’. The dying must be protected, not pressured. We need to ensure the law continues to protect those we hold most dear.

You will, likely, one day be old and sick yourself

When we are young, many of us feel invincible. It is unpleasant to think about the day that we will be elderly and infirm, relying heavily on the care of others. The truth of the matter is, one day, that will be reality for many of us. These are decisions we may face one day. When we are utterly dependent, we will be more susceptible to subtle, unintentional pressures from our loved ones. It is important that we communicate, well before it’s necessary, that we expect to have our life and dignity respected as we age. It is also important we support legislation that protects us from pressures to end our lives prematurely.

Assisted suicide isn’t always restricted to the old and infirm

In the Netherlands, a man sought and was granted physician assisted suicide because of his alcoholism. A 24-year-old Belgian woman was euthanised because of her depression. Belgium has extended assisted suicide to terminally ill children – with no age restrictions. Make no mistake, assisted suicide legislation is not restricted to the elderly and terminally ill. There is a possibility it will be available to us in our lifetime – and what a fearful time that will be.

There are times in all of our lives that we feel hopeless and powerless. Imagine having a legal way to end your life in those moments. We cannot promote the idea that it is ever acceptable for a doctor – even with the patient’s consent – to take a life. Assisted suicide legislation is growing more extreme around the world. We should not doubt that a similar progression is possible here.

Defending the vulnerable is a task for us all

Simply because we haven’t been faced with the choice of assisted suicide, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care. Assisted suicide legislation puts vulnerable people at risk. These people, often totally reliant on others, are susceptible to pressure and coercion from everyone around them. If the option is open to them, many may choose to end their life so as to not burden those on whom they rely. But, this is not the ‘free’ and ‘autonomous’ choice assisted suicide campaigners speak of. It doesn’t speak of the person’s ‘dignity’ at the end of their life.

True dignity is upheld when we provide the best care to the most vulnerable. When we support them through the end of their lives and assure them that we do it out of love, not just duty. This is a task for all of us – to support the weak and dying. It’s easy, when we’re young, to ignore those members of the human family who are sick and dying. So often they are invisible, tucked in hospitals and hospices. We don’t like to think of them, because they remind us of our own frailty and mortality. But, they rely on us to stand up in defence of them and protect their lives and well-being. That’s why we need to get past our own anxieties and speak for them.

What can you do?

  • Learn the arguments – In order to effectively communicate why assisted suicide is wrong, we must first learn the arguments. One great way to learn is by attending conferences like the SPUC Youth Conference, which will equip you with all the information you might need.
  • Have the conversation - Simply starting the conversation among our peers is a good place to start speaking out against assisted suicide. Many have not even begun to think about the issue, and won’t be informed. Raising the question may lead to fruitful conversations.
  • Hold debates at your school or university - So many young people choose the side of 'choice' because that’s the narrative they’ve been sold in every facet of life. If we coherently present the case against assisted suicide, and the threats it poses to our society, perhaps we can change some minds.
  • Keep informed – The debate about physician assisted suicide is not going away any time soon. It is our duty to make sure we are up to date with what’s happening, so we can be effective voices in the fight against it.
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