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THREE DEGREES OF RHETORICAL SEPARATION BETWEEN DOCTORS AND HIT MEN

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Rhetorical legerdemain comes to the aid of another sketchy cause. Just as climate change filled in for global warming, and choice now means abortion, assisted suicide is being replaced by aid in dying (‘Aid in Dying’ Movement Takes Hold in Some States, New York Times) legalized murder.

It is murder, and if you think that legalized assistance in dying won't lead to unrequested assistance in dying, you haven't watched enough TV or read enough mysteries.

This begs the question, how many layers of rhetoric are necessary to conceal original meaning, before people are thoroughly numbed to reality. In the case of abortion, not many. We got from abortion to choice in one easy step, perhaps because one party in this exchange of services has no voice. Murder at the end of life has taken an extra rhetorical step. To remove the concept of suicide from this process will take a little more fancy footwork. Homicide, infanticide, suicide — that pesky "cide" suffix carries a meaning that is too close to killing. Because that's what it means, without the legal niceties distinguishing murder / homicide / manslaughter. How many children want to say of a parent, "I'm so proud! He killed himself to avoid pain!" How much easier for some children to say, "I killed Mom (or Dad). It was the pain." A life free of pain (and even inconvenience, ergo abortion) is the ideal.

The "quiet demand" all over the country for help with killing yourself, as noted in the New York Times article, is actually a request for legal, preferably medical, hit men. Why should they have to be doctors, by the way? Doctors are the only people who can prescribe lethal drugs, but that's not the only way to die. Some people object to the iffiness of a drug-induced killing anyway, as in the story of convicted Ohio murderer Dennis McGuire who did not die instantly. A firing squad would be quicker.

McGuire's story, and in fact the whole idea of assisted suicide, trash the traditional idea of dying with dignity. Getting someone else to kill you, unless you are a samurai or a Roman soldier falling on your sword, carries no whiff of nobility. When a doctor does it, there is neither stoical pride nor Christian humility. The pagan ideal of dying when honor is lost has a sort of nobility, as does the endurance of pain with a view toward heaven.

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