Last October when Compassion and Choices (the former Hemlock Society) rolled out Brittany Maynard’s tragic assisted suicide story along with the establishment of a Brittany Maynard Fund to raise money to legalize doctor-assisted suicide throughout the US, the group was confident that this would be the tipping point in a movement that had stalled in other states.
The state of California was considered a sure thing for doctor-assisted suicide especially because Brittany Maynard and her family left California which had repeatedly rejected doctor-assisted suicide for Oregon, the first state to legalize such suicides. Nevertheless, People magazine and other mainstream media praised Ms. Maynard “heroism” in supporting doctor-assisted suicide and touted the “success” of such laws in the few states that had legalized it.
However, efforts to pass Senate Bill 128 failed in the California legislature this summer after efforts by disability, pro-life and other organizations to educate both legislators and the public about the dangers of doctor-assisted suicide.
Undaunted, Compassion and Choices then supported efforts to reverse the ban against assisted suicide with lawsuits filed by several terminally ill patients in two courts. However both courts, one in San Francisco and one in San Diego, refused to overturn California’s ban on assisted suicide.
The well-funded pro-assisted suicide groups are nothing if not tenacious so it should not be a surprise that they have now unveiled a “new” and “improved” doctor-assisted suicide bill called AB 15 End of Life Option Act with more so-called “safeguards”.
The reassurance of safeguards are critical to the selling of doctor-assisted suicide to a public understandably squeamish about allowing doctors to help some people to kill themselves.
There have been many articles about the problems with these alleged safeguards but they are rarely covered in mainstream media articles. The latest and one of the best is then August 15, 2015 US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ paper titled “Assisted Suicide Laws in Oregon and Washington: What Safeguards?”,
For example, here is a portion of the paper that gives the real facts behind the alleged psychological counseling safeguard:
Despite medical literature on the frequent role of depression and other psychological problemsin choices for suicide, the prescribing doctor (and the doctor he selects to give a second opinion)are free to decide whether or not to refer suicidal patients for any psychological counseling.Even if such counseling is provided, its goal is to determine that the patient is not suffering from“a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.” Ore. Rev.Stat. 127.825; Rev. Code Wash. 70.245.060. The doctors or counselor can decide that, since depression is “a completely normal response” to terminal illness, the depressed patient’s judgment is not impaired…..
From 1998 to 2012, on average only 6.2% of patients who died under the Act in Oregon were referred for counseling to check for “impaired judgment.” Of 108 patients who died under the (Oregon) Act in 2007 and 2009, none was referred for psychological evaluation. In Washington, only 4% of patients are known to have been referred for such counseling in 2014 (six of the 167 who died from any cause after receiving the prescription); the state does not report whether any of those who actually ingested the lethal drugs had been referred for counseling.
An Oregon emergency room physician was asked by a woman to end the life of her mother who was unconscious from a stroke. He tried to stop her breathing or heartbeat in several ways,finally giving a lethal dose of a paralyzing drug to the older woman who died minutes later. The state board of medical examiners reprimanded the doctor but he faced no criminal charges for this direct killing–which news reports called a case of “assisted suicide”–and he later resumed medical practice.
WHY SHOULD WE CARE?
Unfortunately, even my home state of Missouri which has laws against assisted suicide had a case similar to the one referenced here about the Oregon physician who gave a lethal overdose. This 2001 Missouri case involved a nurse. The nurse gave a lethal overdose without a doctor’s order to a patient who had a stroke the day before but wouldn’t stop breathing when taken off a ventilator. After the patient’s son voiced support for the nurse, she was only sentenced to 5 years’ probation.
The point is that when so-called “safeguards” are accepted (and routinely ignored) in states that do have legalized doctor-assisted suicide amid an aggressive national campaign to legalize doctor-assisted suicide as a civil right, there has been a chilling effect on prosecutors and juries even in other states that have rejected assisted suicide as long as “compassion” is given as the reason for ending life.
Ominously, in other countries like Belgium and Holland, the practice of doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill adult has evolved over the years to now include children, people with mental illness and even people who are only “tired of life.”
Are we willing to risk a similar fate here?