DID YOU KNOW – YOU COULD BE CONSIDERED TERMINALLY ILL EVEN IF YOU COULD LIVE FOR DECADES?
Under current doctor-prescribed suicide laws and proposals, a person who could live for many years is eligible to receive a prescription for a lethal overdose of drugs.
Proponents of doctor-prescribed suicide invariably point to the requirement that a person must be terminally ill to obtain the prescription for what they call “death with dignity.” They further explain that the person must have been diagnosed with a six-month or less life expectancy. They call this a safeguard.
What they omit is the fact that, in all the assisted-suicide laws that have passed in the various states – as well as those that have been proposed this year – the definition of “terminal” allows doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to individuals even if the patients could live for many years.
This is because the laws and proposals define “terminal” as an illness or condition that will result in death within six months, but do not specify whether the person could survive with appropriate treatment.
There is documentation that this has occurred under Oregon’s assisted suicide law. In official reports from Oregon, diabetes is noted as the underlying terminal condition that made the patient eligible for a lethal prescription. If insulin-dependent diabetics do not take insulin, they will die within six months. If they do take the medication, they can live for many years.
Dr. Charles Blanke, an oncologist with Oregon Health & Science University, described another case of a young woman with Hodgkin lymphoma who had a 90 percent chance of living for decades with recommended treatment. The woman, however, refused the treatment. “That was a very challenging situation,” he said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Why doesn’t that patient want to take relatively non-toxic treatment and live for another seven decades?” Blanke ended up prescribing the deadly overdose for the woman anyway.
 Official report for 2016 deaths under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, Oregon Public Health Division, “Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act – 2016,” pg. 11, fn. 2. Available at: http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year19.pdf. (Last accessed 8/17/17.)
 Tara Bannow, “Rural Oregonians Still Face Death with Dignity Barriers,” Bend Bulletin, August 14, 2017. Available at: http://www.bendbulletin.com/health/5512373-151/oregonians-can-choose-how-their-roads-end. (Last accessed 8/17/17.)
More on Oregon
2017 Doctor-Prescribed Suicide Bills Proposed
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- 15 states rejected doctor-prescribed suicide bills since the beginning of the year
- Compassion & Choices drops appeal in Vermont case
- When patients’ death requests supersede physicians’ conscience rights
- Mayo Clinic study finds over 20% of patients are totally misdiagnosed
- News briefs from home & abroad
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Imagine you are in an accident tomorrow and so seriously injured that you aren’t able to communicate about your health care wishes for several weeks. Who would make health care decisions for you during that time? Do you need an advance directive?
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Recent Major Developments
“Euthanasia used for 4.5 percent of deaths in the Netherlands”
(Washington Post — August 2, 2017)
“When assisted dying is becoming the more normal option at the end of life, there is a risk people will feel more inclined to ask for it….”
“These are old people who may have health problems, but none of them are life-threatening. They’re old, they can’t get around, their friends are dead and their children don’t visit anymore… This kind of trend cries out for discussion. Do we think their lives are still worthwhile?”
More on Holland
“Medical Aid in Dying Dealt Another Blow in Hawaii”
(Big Island Video News — July 15, 2017)
They failed at the legislature this year, and now a court dismissed a lawsuit, but advocates have not given up.
More on Hawaii
Beginning on August 1, 2017, assisted suicide will be a Class C felony in Alabama, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Prior to then, assisted suicide has been dealt with under common law.
More on Alabama
“Charlie Gard evidence not new, hospital claims”
(BBC — July 10, 2017)
A lawyer for Great Osmond Street Hospital (GOSH) has dismissed claims of “fresh” medical evidence in the case of terminally ill baby Charlie Gard…Lawyers representing the family have now said using “cutting edge genetic science” there was a “small chance” of brain recovery and that it was a chance “worth taking”….
GOSH describes proposed experimental therapies as “unjustified” and said the treatments being offered are not a cure.
More on United Kingdom
“Netherlands Considers Euthanasia for Healthy People, Doctors Say Things Are ‘Getting Out of Hand'”
(The Federalist — June 30, 2017)
Politicians in the Netherlands are discussing the possibility of legalizing euthanasia for healthy people. The proposed “Completed Life Bill” would allow any person age 75 or over who decides their life is “complete” to receive euthanasia. It doesn’t matter if they are otherwise perfectly healthy…If the Completed Life Bill comes to a vote in Parliament, it will most likely pass. Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy has said he is willing to enact it. The question is whether the bill will be placed on the legislative agenda.
More on Holland
California releases first data report on End of Life Options Act
(California Department of Public Health — June 27, 2017)
According to the report, 111 people died after taking the drugs prescribed under the law.
Unlike other official reports from states permitting doctor-prescribed suicide, there is no information about whether any patient was referred for “counseling.” Also lacking is information about the end-of-life concerns expressed by patients, whether or not a doctor or other health care provider was present at the time of death, whether there were complications, etc. While the report indicates that 10 patients qualified for the lethal drugs due to “other underlying illnesses,” there is no information about what those illnesses were. (In Oregon, for example, diabetes has been listed as an underlying condition which qualified the patient for the prescription.)
More on California
“Woman, 77, with osteoarthritis approved for euthanasia in Canada after confusion over wording of assisted dying law”
(Daily Mail — June 27, 2017)
Under Canadian law, a patient is eligible for euthanasia or assisted suicide if they are enduring severe suffering and their death is “reasonably foreseeable.” The woman, known as AB, was experiencing enduring pain from her arthritis but the question remained as to whether her death was reasonably foreseeable.
A judge ruled that, because she was almost 80-years-old, her death is reasonably foreseeable and therefore she was approved for medically assisted death.
More on Canada
“South Dakota Backers Push Physician-Assisted Dying Measure”
(US News and World Report — May 5, 2017)
Backers of the plan would have to submit nearly 14,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state by November 2017 to get on the ballot in 2018. Former Rep. Fred Deutsch who opposes the measure said he expects it to qualify for the ballot.
More on South Dakota
Canadian report indicates that the vast majority of deaths under the country’s “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAID) law are from euthanasia, not assisted suicide.
(April 26, 2017)
Of 507 reported deaths, 504 were clinician-administered (euthanasia) [from lethal injection]. Only 3 reported deaths were self-administered (assisted suicide).
[Page 3, Table 2]
More on Canada
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“Stop Assisted Suicide Opioid Abuse”
(First Things — August 8, 2017)
“[O]ne important piece of the opioid problem was omitted…
The Commission’s report fails to consider the mixed message doctors send when they make opioids available to patients for use in committing suicide:
‘Don’t abuse opioids, because they can kill you — unless you have a terminal illness and want them to kill you, in which case your overdose will be considered ‘death with dignity.'”
“How the Medicaid Debate Affects Long-Term Care Insurance Decisions”
(New York Times — July 14, 2017)
Susan Flanders, a retired Episcopal priest who watched her father die slowly while in the throes of Alzheimer’s, believes that the aid-in-dying movement will eventually catch up to the desire of many people to make plans in advance to end their lives, should their minds permanently falter in a severe fashion.
She’s also utterly unafraid to mix money into the conversation…”It’s hundreds of dollars each day that could go towards their grandchildren’s education or care for people who could get well…”. How soon will the federal and state governments come around….
More on Medicare and Medicaid
More on Cost Containment
More on Alzheimer’s
“Disability Rights Toolkit for Advocacy Against Legalization of Assisted Suicide”
(Not Dead Yet — posted June 23 2017)
The perspective of the disability rights organizations and advocates that oppose legalization of assisted suicide are an essential part of the public debate, in keeping with the fundamental principle, “Nothing About Us Without Us!”
More on Disability Perspective
“Abusing assisted suicide laws”
(Washington Times — June 7, 2017)
With the passage of assisted-suicide laws, there are new reports that health insurance companies are refusing to cover lifesaving medical care and are offering to pay patients to kill themselves instead…..Allowing insurance company bureaucrats to overrule how a doctor will treat a patient at any point is absurd, but in an age when some states are legalizing assisted suicide, it can be downright deadly.
More on Cost Containment
“Assisted Suicide: Rhetoric v. Reality”
(Patients Rights Council)
Proponents of doctor-prescribed suicide point to Oregon to show that there have been no problems or abuses in the years since its law went into effect. Contrasting this rhetoric with the reality is crucial.
More on Oregon
“NDY Urges AMA to Affirm Longstanding Opposition to Legalizing Assisted Suicide”
(Not Dead Yet — February 15, 2017)
One of the most frequently repeated claims by proponents of assisted suicide laws is that there is “no evidence or data” to support any claim that these laws are subject to abuse…” These claims are demonstrably false.
More on Disability Perspective
More on Oregon
“‘ I know they are going to die.’ This foster father takes in only terminally ill children”
(Los Angeles Times — February 8, 2017)
Bzeek, a quiet, devout Libyan-born Muslim who lives in Azusa, just wants her to know she’s not alone in this life….”The key is, you have to love them like your own,” Bzeek said recently. “I know they are sick. I know they are going to die. I do my best and leave the rest to God.”
More on Children and Teens
“Do patients pay when they leave against medical advice?”
Patients who are leaving the hospital against medical advice are often told by hospital staff that doing so will leave them liable for the entire bill because insurance will not pay if they leave against medical advice.
As described in a study, that is a myth, a medical urban legend, and one which is widespread.
Have you heard about VSED?
It stands for voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. VSED is being promoted by assisted-suicide activists who are also working to force health care providers to participate in it. Important Questions & Answers about VSED
From the bookshelf…
Twenty-six years ago, Ann Humphry, the co-founder of the Hemlock Society (now called Compassion and Choices) committed suicide. Her death made headlines worldwide.
Prior to her death, Ann contacted Rita Marker, a staunch euthanasia opponent. Over time, the two became close friends, and Ann asked Rita to make public secrets about the right-to-die movement — secrets that had weighed heavily on Ann.
Two years after Ann’s tragic death, the book, Deadly Compassion: The Death of Ann Humphry and the Truth About Euthanasia was published. It recounts Ann’s personal story, the founding of the Hemlock Society, and activities of euthanasia and doctor-prescribed suicide advocates. Thousands of copies of the book were sold in the United States, England, Canada and Australia. (Read excerpts from reviews of the book.)
Now, for the first time, you can read Deadly Compassion in its entirety on line in PDF format.