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Supreme Court nominee authored a book on assisted suicide

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Washington D.C., Feb 3, 2017 / 04:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court wrote a book on “the future of assisted suicide” in 2006 – and he came to some strong pro-life conclusions. Judge Neil Gorsuch, in his 2006 book “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” argues that “human life is fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Gorsuch was tapped by President Trump on Tuesday night to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last year. The almost year-long vacancy on the Court was the longest in decades. Religious liberty advocates hailed his selection, citing his previous opinions upholding the freedom of businesses and non-profits to operate according to their sincerely-held religious beliefs.

Pro-life leaders also applauded his selection, admitting that he had not specifically ruled on the Roe v. Wade decision but pointing to his defense of human life in his 2006 book on assisted suicide. In that book, Gorsuch makes strong statements in defense of protecting all human life, from disabled persons to depressed, terminally-ill patients. Rather than relying on religious reasoning, he takes a secular approach in his arguments.

He states that his book has two purposes: to examine the views of assisted suicide advocates – from utilitarian arguments to defenses of autonomy – and to provide his own views on why current prohibitions on assisted suicide and euthanasia should stand.

In Chapter 9 of the book, he lays out a defense of prohibitions of assisted suicide. His argument is “based on secular moral theory,” he says, and “is consistent with the common law and long-standing medical ethics.” Life is a “basic good,” he argues, “inherently worthwhile” and which can be enjoyed by many and has been seen as a good throughout “human history.” Aristotle defined goods this way, and “argued from life’s experiences and observations of human nature” rather than from “hypothetical construct.” We see life as a good simply from our observation of fellow human beings, Gorsuch explains, noting that “people every day and in countless ways do something to protect human life.”

Laws prohibiting murder, traffic laws, and government health departments are all based in protections of human life, he argues. “We have all witnessed, as well, family, friends, or medical workers who have chosen to provide years of loving care to persons who may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other debilitating illnesses precisely because they are human persons, not because doing so instrumentally advances some other hidden objective,” he continues.

“This is not to say that all persons would always make a similar choice, but the fact that some people have made such a choice is some evidence that life itself is a basic good.” The founding documents of the United States, the Constitution, and foreign political documents express that life is a basic good and argue from pragmatic experience and history, he says: “The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection of the laws to all persons; this guarantee is replicated in Article 14 of the European Convention and in the constitutions and declarations of rights of many other countries. This profound social and political commitment to human equality is grounded on, and an expression of, the belief that all persons innately have dignity and are worthy of respect without regard to their perceived value based on some instrumental scale of usefulness or merit. We treat people as worthy of equal respect because of their status as human beings and without regard to their looks, gender, race, creed, or any other incidental trait – because, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, we hold it as ‘self-evident’ that ‘all men [and women] are created equal’ and enjoy ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and ‘that among these are Life.’” To say that some persons don’t have a right to life is a clear violation of “equal protection,” and undermines it at its core, he adds.

Furthermore, Gorsuch says, to create distinctions on a person’s right to life based on their “currently exercisable abilities for self-creation and self-expression” leads to “arbitrary” and “subjective” judgments of whose life should be protected – like determining the rights of “those with low IQs,” “the autistic,” and “infants with Down syndrome.”

Yet those who argue that some persons do not have the same rights as others “ask us to accept, judge, and decree that certain persons with certain (rather arbitrarily chosen) instrumental capacities are worth our total respect – inviolable under law – while other persons who lack those capacities do not merit such esteem, respect, and protection,” he writes. “In the name of progressive policy, they would create a second class of citizens.”

Thus, Gorsuch concludes, “if, as I have argued, human life qualifies as a basic good it follows that we can and should refrain from actions intended to do it harm.” And this will “rule out cases where the doctor intends to kill his or her patient.” And so, he determines, “current laws against assisted suicide and euthanasia largely should be retained.”      

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