I first saw this tactic in the mid-1980s when Missouri was considering a “living will” law to allow a person to refuse “death prolonging procedures” if a person became terminally ill and unable to speak for himself or herself. Some of us warned about a broader agenda, citing court cases involving feeding tubes and seriously brain-injured but non-terminally ill patients like Paul Brophy and Claire Conroy in New Jersey and Massachusetts . In response, “right to die” activists (as they were known then) added the ”safeguard” of not allowing the withholding of food and water to the Missouri law and the bill was passed.
Not surprisingly, Missouri soon faced the Nancy Cruzan case involving the withdrawal of a feeding tube from a non-terminally ill young woman in a so-called “persistent vegetative state”. Soon after that, a Missouri Designated Health Care Decision Maker Act was passed that would allow a person to designate someone to make health care decisions (or a relative if there is no document) including withholding or withdrawing of feeding tubes when the person was incapacitated whether or not they were terminally ill or even in a so-called “vegetative state”.
Now, over 30 years later, we have legalized physician-assisted suicide in several states and the District of Columbia and the former “right to die” groups are now known as Compassion and Choices.
TODAY’S SLIPPERY SLOPE TACTICS
In a December 2016 commentary article titled “End of Life Liberty in DC” for a publication supported by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, lawyer and long-time assisted suicide activist Kathryn L. Tucker surprisingly criticizes the new assisted suicide law quietly signed into law by the mayor of Washington, DC. this month.
While most people might believe that passage of yet another assisted suicide law would be cause for celebration for assisted suicide activists, Ms. Tucker is unhappy with the so-called “safeguards” in the DC law-just as “right to die” activists were with Missouri’s “living will” law.
Ms. Tucker now complains about the “many burdens and restrictions imposed” by these “safeguards” which, ironically, are added by assisted suicide activists themselves when they “routinely face arguments of insufficient ‘safeguards’”. Ms. Tucker lists some of these so-called “burdens and restrictions”:
- Patients electing AID (aid in dying, the activists preferred term for physician-assisted suicide) must make at least three requests, two oral and one written.
- The requests must be witnessed.
- A second opinion confirming diagnosis and prognosis is required.
- A mental health specialist must be consulted if the attending or consulting physician has concerns regarding the patient’s ability to make an informed decision.
- A minimum fifteen-day waiting period must elapse between the two oral requests.
- Physicians must collect and report a vast amount of demographic data on who chooses AID and why.
Ms. Tucker claims these so-called burdens and restrictions “impose heavy governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine, which is concerning because it creates barriers to patient access and to physician participation.” (Emphasis added)
Instead, Ms. Tucker proposes another, more expansive statute without the usual so-called “safeguards” that would provide:
a clear safe harbor (i.e. immunity) for physicians to practice aid in dying in conformity with standard of care. This reflected a positive step in the direction of normalizing AID within the practice of medicine. Medicine is not routinely governed by statute but, rather, by the type of care that a competent health care professional would render in similar circumstances —referred to as standard of care or best practice. (Emphasis added)
In other words, Ms. Tucker is proposing a policy that makes assisted suicide simply normal medical care with special protections against criminal, civil or disciplinary actions for doctors who participate even though such immunity is not given for other medical practices.
Ms. Tucker and other are deadly serious about this. When Vermont passed its assisted suicide law in 2013, the law contained a “sunset” provision that would end “nearly all regulation” after the first three years. Fortunately, this was repealed in 2015.
However, assisted suicide activists will not give up on this as Compassion and Choices makes clear:
We firmly believe — and experience demonstrates — that working within healthcare systems to normalize medical aid in dying will ensure fewer people suffer at the end of their life. (Emphasis added)
As Ms. Tucker demonstrates, assisted suicide advocates will promise anything to get assisted suicide laws passed but it appears that they will never be satisfied until assisted suicide becomes a private and unfettered practice using well-funded groups like Compassion and Choices as the potentially taxpayer-funded “experts” in charge of policies, referrals, training and education.