Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism, and consults for the Patients Rights Council.

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Of Michael Landon and Brittany Maynard

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Michael Landon, the hugely popular television star of BonanzaLittle House on the Prairie, and Highway to Heaven, died in 1991 at age fifty-four. Landon’s last act—if you will—was widely hailed as his best: He publicly announced his diagnosis with terminal pancreatic cancer, appeared on the Tonight Show to openly discuss his pending death with Johnny Carson (almost unprecedented back then), and gave several interviews announcing his determination to hang on until the end. He told Life, “If I’m gonna die, death’s gonna have to do a lot of fighting to get me.” Continue Reading »

Lethal Ageism

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story out of Belgium vividly illustrates how our elderly are becoming personae non gratae in a society increasingly obsessed with avoiding difficulty. Francis and Anne are healthy and happily married octogenarians. Not wanting to live without each other, they plan to die together on their sixty-fourth anniversary. Rather than engaging suicide prevention, their children procured a doctor to euthanize them. Continue Reading »

How to Avoid Death Panels

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It shows the level of suspicion people have for government and the health care system that many of us distrust paying doctors to engage in end-of-life discussions. Indeed, during the run-up to the passage of Obamacare, Sarah Palin labeled a never-passed provision to pay doctors for such conversations, “death panels.” That political sound bite struck such a powerful chord that it quickly entered the lexicon. Continue Reading »

From Pro-Choice to Pro-Abortion

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For decades, the never-ending abortion debate has been summarized by the dueling sound bites of pro-choice and pro-life. Very slowly, but lately more steadily, the fundamental premise of pro-life advocacy—that abortion not only stills a beating heart, but takes a human life—has resonated with the American public. Indeed, the New York Times itself reports that “one of the most enduring labels of modern politics—pro choice—has fallen from favor” as a means of furthering abortion rights policies. Continue Reading »

The Power of Authenticity

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I recently watched my good friend Ralph Nader give a rousing speech before a standing-room only audience at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The presentation was vintage Nader: He railed against the power of large corporations, used his biting sense of humor to poke the politically powerful, as he stepped on the toes of political friends (liberals foolishly won’t work with conservatives on issues of common interest because of a “yuck factor”) and foes alike, while happily spinning iconoclastic arguments ranging from an unexpected call for strong border enforcement (to protect wage levels) to urging government regulation of the emerging sharing economy such as Airbnb. Continue Reading »

Will Doctors Be Forced to Kill?

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The wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters over the modest Hobby Lobby decision has me worried. Apparently, many on the political port side of the country believe that once a favored public policy has been enacted, it immediately becomes a “right” that can never be altered or denied. More, once such a “right” is established for the individual, others should have the duty to ensure access—even at the cost of violating their own religious consciences. Continue Reading »

How We Portray Suffering and Suicide

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Those of us who have never experienced severe physical disability have no clue about the depth of suffering it can cause. But NPR’s megastar talk show host Dianne Rehm does, up close and personal. Her husband John had severe and progressive Parkinson’s disease, leading him to suicidal despair. John asked his doctor for assisted suicide. Told that was not possible, he starved himself to death—a process that euthanasia activists call “voluntary stop eating and drinking,” or VSED. Continue Reading »

A Tale of Different Funerals

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There’s a great old Twilight Zone episode (“Elegy”) in which future astronauts crash land on an asteroid that seems very much like earth. They look for help in a town—only to find all the people frozen in different tableaus: an unattractive woman winning a beauty contest, a man celebrating his election as mayor, etc. Continue Reading »