Late last year, a file was made public for a 3D-printable suicide machine called Sarco. The machine requires a patient to answer just four cog­nitive ques­tions before a patient can climb in, close the lid, and be gassed to death. I Wiki­media Commons

We’re two months into the decade, and the race for new tech­nology is zipping along as fast as ever. 

New tech­nologies now are able to detect and address birth defects earlier and more pre­cisely, advance the via­bility of pre­ma­turely-born babies, and tend to the health and lives of mothers in new ways. Dis­eases are caught earlier and treated better. We know more than we used to, and that’s a good thing.

But unfor­tu­nately, not all tech­nology is being used to promote life. 

In the race to develop tech­nologies and leg­is­lation for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, or E‑PAS, America is just steps behind the front of the pack.

Whenever the topic comes up in con­ver­sation, I almost always get one of two responses. Either, “It’s not that big a deal — nobody wants to be euth­a­nized.” Or, “what’s the big deal? If someone wants to end their suf­fering it’s none of your business, anyway.” 

Unfor­tu­nately, the methods of euthanasia are fre­quently trau­matic and often painful. For one, the patient must admin­ister the life-ending drug to himself for the pro­cedure to be con­sidered an assisted suicide.

The most common method of assisted suicide is a bitter drink made of a lethal overdose of bar­bi­tu­rates dis­solved in a glass of water. Hypo­thet­i­cally, the patient will fall asleep within five minutes, and quickly advance from anes­thetized to comatose. Cardiac arrest occurs within 30 minutes. 

The admin­is­tration of bar­bi­tu­rates is fright­en­ingly quick and irre­versible, but worse is on its way. 

Late last year, a file was made public for a 3D-printable suicide machine called Sarco. The machine requires a patient to answer just four cog­nitive ques­tions before a patient can climb in, close the lid, and be gassed to death. 

Because the agent admin­stering the euthanasia need not be the patient, it is available in a range of methods, from star­vation to lethal injection. Unlike physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia doesn’t even require the consent of the patient. And often, the patient isn’t able to consent anyway.

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide prey upon the weak, vul­nerable, and seem­ingly less-useful members of society, cap­turing them in their moment of despair. Espe­cially when iso­lated in the shroud of ter­minal illness, it is dev­as­tating for a patient to be told they are a financial and emo­tional burden of your family — one of the most common reasons the dying will request PAS. 

Dis­guised by terms like dignity, com­passion, and medical treatment, euthanasia commits a grave offense against human dignity. Med­icine developed to defend the per­sonhood of each patient, hoping to assist them to victory over their illness or injury. E‑PAS, on the other hand, links arms with the illness and injury, stamping out the flicker of hope in each patient until they submit to help­lessness and defeat. 

As of the new year, Maine joins Wash­ington, D.C. and eight other states in legal­izing physician-assisted suicide. In addition to the 10 that have already legalized, there are cur­rently 17 states with active leg­islative or petition-driven efforts in favor of legal­ization, according to Death with Dignity, a non­profit orga­ni­zation that pro­motes pro-E-PAS leg­is­lation. That leaves only 24 states opposed, at least for the time being, to E‑PAS. 

Yet even that is a skewed number, upon closer exam­i­nation. Con­sider Oklahoma. While counted among those states in which assisted suicide is illegal, many turn a blind eye when it occurs. While PAS remains legally unrec­og­nized in the state, it still happens, and is required to be listed on death cer­tifi­cates when applicable. 

Because euthanasia and PAS remain pro­hibited on the federal level, it is easy to dismiss the issue as some­thing to be dealt with down the road. But it’s time for Amer­icans to realize that we’re already well on our way to legal and widely-accepted use of these procedures. 

It seems that the advo­cates of tra­di­tional mar­riage and social con­ser­v­a­tives did not learn their lesson in 2015, when Obergefell v. Hodges legalized gay mar­riage across the country. In 2015, Obergefell was most shocking to the 13 states still defending a tra­di­tional def­i­n­ition of mar­riage. In 2013, 33 states still held that mar­riage was, by def­i­n­ition, between a man and a woman. 

The speed of tech­no­logical devel­opment seems to be dragging time along with it. Cen­turies-old opinions reverse in a matter of years. Already, more than half of the United States permits physician-assisted suicide. 

The undertow is pulling. Stay vigilant. 


Reagan Cool is a senior studying phi­losophy and religion. She is a columnist on faith and culture.