On Jan. 22, Phillip and Rebecca Benight were found unconscious in their car in Manor Township after overdosing on prescription pills. First responders gave the couple Narcan — reviving them both — and they were eventually taken to the hospital. Phillip, 60, lived, but Rebecca, a 72-year-old dementia patient, died on Jan. 30, according to Penn Live.
Before the two had overdosed, Phillip picked his wife up from the care home she was staying at in Manheim Township. His reason for carrying out the act was in line with requests from his wife, who the Lancaster County district attorney has said — despite her disease — “at least had instances when decision-making was clear and of her own will,” according to Penn Live.
Some who responded to the article on Penn Live hailed Phillip for acting selflessly out of love, but the law had a different view of what he did. Though criminal homicide will not be added to his charges, Phillip Benight is still facing legal trouble for aiding suicide, according to Penn Live.
Many of us have seen the condition of someone we love deteriorate, and can attest to how hard it is to watch. This leaves us to ask: Why is a strict “right to live” still enforced when a consenting adult wishes to waive it?
We are not advocating for unrestricted access to assisted suicide, but think it should be an option for those whose conditions are beyond repair. We understand there is a lot of gray area that surrounds this issue — as is represented by the case at hand — but had Rebecca made her choice in a coherent state of mind, then this issue should not be one.
We would like to see a system that allows terminally ill patients to exercise assisted suicide as an option. One that includes a professional, whether it be a doctor or psychiatrist, to mediate and have the final say on a case-by-case basis. This would allow those who need the option to use it, while minimizing the loss of life from those who may be more inclined to make a hasty decision on the matter.
Problems may arise when you factor in that some individuals may not have access to healthcare that would allow them to properly carry out an assisted suicide. But this issue has roots in both the medical and legal systems. For this idea to work, there would also be a need for provisions in Pennsylvania’s euthanasia laws that allow judges to give much more lenient penalties in cases where the act was carried out with mutual consent.
As mentioned above, many of us have experienced the painful final days of a loved one. Those of us who have not would still respect our loved one’s choice if they wanted to pass on under their own terms. We understand this issue is not black and white, but the way we treat these cases, and treat the concept of assisted suicide overall, needs to be reexamined from a legal and medical perspective.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not representative of The Slate or its staff as a whole.