Amid all the excitement and dismay of the Trump upset on Election Day 2016, it was easy to miss a lopsided victory in Colorado for Proposition 106, legalizing “Medical Aid in Dying” or assisted suicide. And I suppose the story wasn’t all that newsworthy, since Colorado joined five other states (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana and California) that already have similar laws. Besides, the Colorado law seems rather tame, at least as described in the Nov. 8 Denver Post: “Colorado passed a medical aid in dying measure Tuesday that will allow adults suffering from terminal illness to take life-ending, doctor-prescribed sleeping medication.”
But newsworthy or not, Proposition 106 highlights one of the great underlying questions of our age: What gives value and meaning to human life?
If we can’t give a definitive answer to this question, then we’ll have to deal with other questions: Who sets the limits on “Medical Aid in Dying”? On what basis would such limits be set? Should there be any limits at all?
The Netherlands and Belgium are a few years ahead of the US in legalized assisted suicide. In 2001 and 2002, they legalized euthanasia (which differs from assisted suicide in that someone other than the victim does the killing). According to an April, 2016, article by Douglas Murray, euthanasia in these countries has expanded far beyond terminal cases to include those suffering from mental illness.
In 2013, a single Dutch clinic helped kill nine psychiatric patients who were all able-bodied. Not the least curious of the problems this raises is that the patient must prove he is of sound mind while wanting to die. That is, he must show that he wants to die but is not suicidal. If the person is deemed suicidal, he might not be able to get euthanasia but could instead be put in an asylum.
The article opens with the story of Nathan (born Nancy) Verhelst. “In September 2013, when Nathan was 44 years old, the Belgian state killed him by lethal injection because of his ‘unbearable psychological suffering.’”
Even more recently, just two months ago, the first minor received euthanasia in Belgium. In another article, Wesley J. Smith, comments: “Think about this: Children who can’t enter into legal contracts, get tattooed, or be licensed to drive a car may request—and receive—death.”
Euthanasia has become a cause célèbre today, right up there with gay and transgender rights. I see a common thread uniting these issues, which goes back to the big question: What gives value and meaning to human life? Classical Judaism and Christianity agree on a response to this question. Humans are created in the image of God, and this is the foundation of all morality, or the great principle of Torah.
In the second century, Rabbi Akiva, son of Joseph, was asked about the [fundamental principle of Torah]. He said it was the commandment in Leviticus, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” . . . His friend Rabbi Simeon, son of Azzai, disagreed, He said that the greatest verse is from Genesis: “This is the book of the generations of man. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him.” 
Human life, every individual human life, therefore, has inherent, undeniable, and indeed sacred value (Sanhedrin 37a). This value underlies the entire structure of our morality, and the laws and institutions that rest upon it. It’s reflected, for example, in the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Thomas Jefferson didn’t pen these words as a Christian, or even a believer in the Bible. He was a freethinker, who years later produced his own version of the Gospels that excluded all references to the miraculous and the resurrection. But his thinking was shaped by the broad biblical revelation of a Creator, who “self-evidently” gave value and dignity to human beings. Jefferson favored a separation of church and state, but his Declaration of Independence reveals the state’s dependence on foundational religious ideas.
It’s ironic that in today’s democracies, including the USA, a document claiming what the Declaration claims, or resting its argument on creation and the Creator, as it does, would be driven out of public discourse.
Without the foundational idea of humankind created in the image of God, however, how exactly do you decide on the value of a human life? If it’s merely biological and material, then when to end it really is a matter of individual choice. But if human life is merely biological, how do you make that decision? Can a free society sustain itself detached from the broad religious values that it was originally established on? The trajectory set by euthanasia in Belgium and the Netherlands suggests the answer.
Wesley Smith concludes his story:
Here’s the bottom line. Euthanasia consciousness isn’t really about “choice.” Nor is it about terminal illness. Rather, euthanasia proponents see killing and suicide as acceptable answers to human suffering and acceptable means of reducing costs of care.
I don’t entirely agree. I believe that “choice” really is part of the bottom line of “euthanasia consciousness.” If there is no Creator (or the Creator is irrelevant), I have unlimited choice to run my own life by my own tastes and values. I’m free to customize and accessorize my own life, as I would be with any commodity. Even the created categories of male and female collapse before individual choice—and collapses like this should be celebrated. That’s why many who see themselves as cutting-edge celebrate all expressions of gender choice and engineering, and increasingly celebrate a “right to die” as well.
Human freedom without meta-human values, however, has proven itself hazardous to human life.
 Sifra Kedoshim 2:16:11, cited in William B. Silverman, The Sages Speak: Rabbinic Wisdom and Jewish Values (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., 1989) 219-220.