Reasons for Second Thoughts

Reasons for Second Thoughts when it comes to  ASSISTED SUICIDE

 

 

  • Terminal prognosis are often wrong. Individuals outlive their diagnoses by months and even years. Assisted suicide legislation leads people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives.

 

  • Assisted suicide legalization has failed more times than it has succeeded. There have been nearly 300 attempts in the past 20 years to pass legislation, yet only 9 states have actually legalized it through legislative or voter action.

 

  • The witness to a prescription request could be someone who would inherit from the patient. Once the prescription is written, a relative or abusive caregiver can pick it up and give it to the patient in food or drink. Since no witness is required at the time of death, who would know if the patient consented.
    • Thomas Middleton was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and moved into his estate trustee’s home to die later that same month by assisted suicide. Two days after Middleton died, his trustee listed the property for sale and deposited 90,000 in her own account. It took a federal investigation into real estate fraud to expose what had happened.  The OR state agency responsible for regulating the law did not notice.

 

  • If assisted suicide is made legal, it quickly becomes just another form of treatment and as such, will always be the cheapest option. This is troublesome in a cost-conscious healthcare environment.
    • Oregonian Barbara Wagner was denied coverage of her cancer treatment but received a letter from the Oregon Health Plan that stated the plan would cover assisted suicide. Another Oregon resident, Randy Stroup, received an identical letter, telling him that the Oregon Health Plan would cover the cost of his assisted suicide, but would not pay for medical treatment for his prostate cancer.

 

  • Assisted suicide laws are inherently discriminatory. Legalizing assisted suicide means that some people who say they want to die will receive suicide prevention, while others will receive suicide assistance. The difference between these two groups of people will be their health or disability status, leading to a two-tiered system that results in death to the socially devalued group.

 

  • The Massachusetts  bill requires a psychiatric evaluation, but does not mandate an in-person assessment or encourage meaningful patient assessment. Rather, the goal is to ensure the patients does not have “impaired judgement,” an undefined term.
    • Evidence suggests that many patients whose mental health concerns are properly diagnosed and treated change their minds about suicide. For example, in one study of assisted suicide in Oregon, 46% of patients seeking assisted suicide changed their minds when their physicians intervened and appropriately addressed suicidal ideations by treating their pain, depression, and/or other medical problems.

 

  • Nothing in the Massachusetts bills to legalize assisted suicide can protect from explicit or implicit family pressures to commit suicide or personal fears of “being a burden.” Since legalization of assisted suicide in Oregon, doctors report that an average of 48% of patients a year list “fear of being a burden” as a primary reason for their request. There is no requirement that a doctor evaluate family pressures the patient may be under.

 

  • The Massachusetts bills do not require that the oral or written requests for assisted suicide, any medical consultations, or even the mental health counseling take place during in-person meetings or consultations. A patient could go through the whole assisted suicide process without seeing any medical professional in-person.

 

  •  The Oregon Health Department self-admittedly does not investigate cases of assisted suicide abuse, reporting “We cannot determine whether physician assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the Death with Dignity Act.” The state has also acknowledged destroying the underlying data after each annual report. Despite the inadequacies, Oregon offers the fullest yearly report; other legal states fail to produce one at all or track minimal data.

 

  • Under the proposed Massachusetts bills, there is nothing to compel doctors to encourage a patient to notify family members as a support system to aid in the process or even be present.

 

  • Countries such as the Netherlands and Belgium where assisted suicide has been legal for decades, show that assisted suicide cannot be contained or limited to the terminally ill. Canada legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia in 2016 and now permits it for people with chronic and mental illness.

 

  • In violation of basic medical standards, assisted suicide proponents are using experimental drug combinations on patients in the name of “research” to induce death by lethal drugs. According to The Atlantic: “No medical association oversees aid in dying, and no government committee helps fund the research…”

 

References

Extent and determinants of error in doctors’ prognoses in terminally ill patients: prospective cohort study, Nicholas A Christakis, associate professora and Elizabeth B Lamont, fellow, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27288/

Oregon Death with Dignity Report, 2020, https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/PROVIDERPARTNERRESOURCES/EVALUATIONRESEARCH/DEATHWITHDIGNITYACT/Documents/year23.pdf, page 11

Linda Ganzini et al., “Physicians’ Experiences with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act,” 342 neW eng. J. MeD. 557, 557 (2000).

The Atlantic, Jennie Dear “The Doctors Who Invented a New Way to Help People Die,” January 22nd, 2019 https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2019/01/medi- cal-aid-in-dying-medications/580591/

Dr. Katrina Hedberg, 9 December 2004, House of Lords, Select Committee on the Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill, Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill Bill [HL], Volume II: Evidence, (London: The Stationery Office Ltd., 2005), 262.)