Analysis of Proposal “B” – Michigan’s Assisted Suicide Initiative

On Tuesday, November 3, Michigan voters will cast their ballots on Proposal “B,” a measure that, if passed, would legalize assisted suicide. The following is a documented analysis of Proposal “B.”

“B” permits out-of-state residents to go to Michigan for drugs to commit suicide.

A person who gives an affidavit to a doctor, claiming to be related to someone in Michigan by blood or marriage is considered a “resident” for the purpose of getting suicide drugs. The only penalty for filing a false affidavit would be against the out-of-stater (who would be dead or may have left the state with the drugs). [§§5672 (A); 5673(Q); 5689 (7)]

“B” permits establishment of assisted suicide clinics.

Assisted suicide may be the primary, but not the “exclusive,” procedure at a clinic. As long as any other procedure (i.e. drug screening, blood testing, etc.), is provided — even rarely– a clinic which specializes in assisted suicide may be established. [§ 5676 (3)]

“B” gives HMOs and insurance programs the opportunity to approve prescriptions for suicide to cut costs.

In Oregon (the only state which has a law permitting assisted suicide), the state Medicaid program pays for lethal prescriptions for poor residents under the category of “comfort care” and a spokesperson for Blue Cross and Blue Shield said assisted suicide “…would be no different than any other covered prescription.” [“Oregon will cover assisted suicide,” Oregonian, 2/27/98; “State Could Cover Assisted Suicide,” Statesman Journal, 12/6/94]

“B” does not require that patients be competent when lethal drugs are taken.

“B” requires competence, voluntariness, an informed decision, etc. at the time the lethal drugs are prescribed. [§§ 5673 (C),(H),(W); 5674-5676 (1),(2); 5677 (1); 5679 (1),(2)] It has no similar requirements for the time when the prescription is “self-administered.” At the time of “self-administration” (i.e. when eating food laced with drugs or when pushing a lever to start the flow of poison into an intravenous line), the patient need not understand that the food or intravenous liquids are lethal.

“B” requires falsification of death certificates.

Proposal B requires that the death certificate of a person who dies from assisted suicide be falsified to list a “terminal illness” as the cause of death. [§§ 2844(1); 5686(1)]

“B” does not require that family members be notified when a loved one has requested or received drugs to commit suicide.

There is no requirement for family notification in Proposal B.

“B” permits Jack Kevorkian to carry out assisted suicide legally.

Once a licensed physician has written the lethal prescription, a “friend” ( who could be an unlicensed physician like Kevorkian ) can pick up the drugs, chemicals, etc., deliver them and provide “support” (aid) when they are taken. [§§5679 (2)(F); 5689 (2)]

“B” establishes a secret, politically-appointed, tax-funded oversight committee, made up of assisted suicide advocates.

Oversight committee members (who must not be opposed to assisted suicide) will serve as consultants in developing tax-funded materials to let people know how to obtain lethal drugs. [ §§ 5685 (1) (A – C), (2); 5682 ]

Oversight committee members will review a sample of reported assisted suicide cases and determine whether they comply with the law. Materials related to oversight committee actions and deliberations will not be open for inspection and will not be subject to the Open Meetings Act or the Freedom of Information Act. [ § 5685 (7),(8),(9) ]

“B” permits assisted suicide for individuals who are depressed or mentally ill.

A patient who is clinically depressed or has a diagnosed mental disorder is qualified to receive drugs to commit suicide as long as the request for the drugs is not a result of a “distortion in the patient’s judgment.” [ § 5676 (2)(C)(i)]

“B” prevents court challenges related to assisted suicide by those who may be closest to the patient.

Proposal B would not allow an adult grandchild to bring a court challenge to protect a grandparent, nor would it permit a designated health care proxy to intervene — even if there is evidence that the law is being violated or that the patient is not capable or is being encouraged to commit suicide. Further, it prevents court challenges by anyone (neighbor, friend, counselor) to protect an individual who has no known relatives or live-in partner. [§ 5683 (2)]

“B” forces doctors to undergo training in performing assisted suicide.

Proposal B mandates virtually all physicians to undergo “education in the theory and practice” of prescribing lethal drugs as a condition for medical license renewal. [§ 5687]