Oregon, the first US state to legalize physician-assisted suicide, is routinely promoted by advocates as having the model law for assisted suicide. Now the debate has come to Sweden.
The Swedish National Council of Medical Ethics, an advisory board to the Swedish government and parliament, published a November 20, 2017 report, “Assisted Death: A Knowledge Compilation” (an English translation is coming) “to promote a more fact-based debate on assisted dying” and states that the Council “does not take a stand on assisted dying in the report”.
However, Fabian Stahle, a Swedish private citizen who read the report, found a problem.
In his article “Oregon Health Authority Reveals Hidden Problems with the Oregon Assisted Suicide Model” , he notes that:
“As a basis for their reassurance of no slippery slope in the Oregon model, the authors of the Swedish report note that there is one question that is ‘the crucial issue’: is anyone with a non-terminal, chronic disease granted medical assisted death?” (Emphasis in original)
But Mr. Stahle notes that the report says elsewhere that the six-month limit on expected survival time applies, “if no treatment is given to slow down the course of the disease” (Emphasis in original) and thus “might complicate the the whole idea that the law only applied to the ‘untreatable’ sick where nothing could be expected to extend life beyond six months”.
So Mr. Stahle says he did his own investigation by contacting the Oregon Health Authority himself. Craig New, Research Analyst with the Oregon Health Authority replied and told him that:
“…your interpretation is correct: The question is: should the disease be allowed to take its course, absent further treatment, is the patient likely to die within six months” (Emphasis added)
Fabian Stahle went further by asking if the doctor suggests to a eligible patient a treatment that possibly could prolong life or transform a terminal illness to a chronic illness or even cure the disease but the patient refuses, would that patient still be eligible for physician-assisted suicide.
He gave the example of a patient with a chronic disease like diabetes who refuses life-sustaining medication/treatment and becomes likely to die within 6 months and asked if that person would be eligible for assisted suicide.
Oregon’s Mr. New answered yes and that if the patient does not want treatment, that would also be their choice-along with the choice for assisted suicide.
As Fabian Stahle observes, this “allows a sanctioned path to suicide, aided by a physician, for anyone with a chronic illness who is likely to die within six months if they chose to stop treatment.” (Emphasis in original)
Fabian Stahle then asked about patients with a chronic disease whose health insurance company is not willing to pay for the treatment/medication.
Oregon’s Mr. New responded that:
“I think you could also argue that even if the treatment/medication could actually cure the disease, and the patient cannot pay for the treatment, then the disease remains incurable.” (Emphasis added)
And thus the patient is considered eligible for assisted suicide under Oregon’s law. This is especially outrageous.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Unfortunately, much of the public just accepts the Compassion and Choices propaganda that physician-assisted suicide is a safe “choice” with strict regulations for terminally and incurably ill people who are going to die soon anyway. Unfortunately, a mostly sympathetic mainstream media concurs and portrays assisted suicide as a “humane” last resort for extreme cases.
But now, Fabian Stahle, a Swedish private citizen, has done what few people do today even with such a life and death issue: He actually investigated the topic and contacted the Oregon Health Authority to clarify what “terminal” and “incurable” really legally means in Oregon’s “model” law.
Of course, there are many other problems with physician-assisted laws but Mr. Stahle focused on the one cited by the Swedish National Council of Medical Ethics as ‘the crucial issue’: is anyone with a non-terminal, chronic disease granted medical assisted death?”
Mr. Stahle is right to question this. The latest Oregon report on their assisted suicide law shows a range of diseases from cancer to undefined “other illnesses” as well as 43 people whose “ingestion status” of the prescribed overdose is unknown and obviously not followed up to see if or when they died.
Having written medical news analysis articles in the past for a national newspaper, I am appalled by the routine lack of investigative interest in life or death issues like assisted suicide from today’s mainstream media. The public needs and deserves better.
I wish Fabian Stahle was eligible for a Pulitzer Prize.