Since Oregon passed the first physician-assisted suicide law in 1997, 8 more states and the District of Washington, D.C. passed assisted suicide laws by 2020. They are:
- California (End of Life Option Act; approved in 2015, in effect from 2016)
- Colorado (End of Life Options Act; 2016)
- District of Columbia (D.C. Death with Dignity Act; 2016/2017)
- Hawaii (Our Care, Our Choice Act; 2018/2019)
- Maine (Death with Dignity Act; 2019)
- New Jersey (Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act; 2019)
- Oregon (Death with Dignity Act; 1994/1997)
- Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act; 2013)
- Washington (Death with Dignity Act; 2008)
So far in 2021, 13 more states have new proposed assisted suicide bills and 4 states with assisted suicide laws are facing bills to expand their assisted suicide laws.
These 13 states are Arizona , Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota and Rhode Island. Most of these states have been repeatedly hounded for years to pass an assisted suicide law.
The expansions range from expanding “qualified medical providers” from doctors to a range of non-doctors including nurses to eliminating so-called “safeguards” such as 15 day waiting periods, in person requests and even to allow electronic prescribing and shipping of lethal overdoses. Compassion and Choices (the former Hemlock Society) and other assisted suicide supporters have long portrayed assisted suicide “safeguards” as “burdensome obstacles”.
CONSCIENCE RIGHTS AND CENSORSHIP
Conscience rights for health care providers has been a very real problem since the 1974 Roe V. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the U.S. The legalization of assisted suicide in several states has made this even worse for nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other healthcare workers. Even healthcare institutions have faced discrimination problems.
The Christian Medical and Dental Association even compiled a long list in 2019 of “Real-life examples of discrimination in healthcare” .
“In January, Bishop Kevin Doran, an Irish Catholic, tweeted: “There is dignity in dying. As a priest, I am privileged to witness it often. Assisted suicide, where it is practiced, is not an expression of freedom or dignity.” Twitter removed this message and banned Bishop Doran from posting further. While the company reversed its decision after public opposition, others haven’t been so lucky.” (Emphasis added)
Back in 2014, I wrote a blog “Should a Pro-Life person Become a Nurse” about a worried pro-life student nurse who wrote me asking “what area of nursing can I move into that does not demand that I do things that I absolutely will not do?”
I wrote her back and told her that I had that challenge in several areas I worked in over 45 years but was able to live up to my ethics despite some difficult situations and that I never regretted becoming a nurse.
However, conscience rights are a not a luxury but rather a necessity.
That is why some of us nurses in Missouri worked so hard to get a conscience rights law passed in 1992 after the Nancy Cruzan starvation and dehydration death that, although not as strong as we wanted, is still in effect today. And I was thrilled when the Trump administration announced a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in 2018 to enforce “federal laws that protect conscience and the free exercise of religion and prohibit coercion and discrimination in health and human services”.
Society has long insisted that health care professionals adhere to the highest standards of ethics as a form of for society. The vulnerability of a sick person and the inability of society to monitor every health care decision or action are powerful motivators to enforce such standards. For thousands of years doctors (and nurses) have embraced the Hippocratic standard that “I will give no deadly medicine to any one, nor suggest any such counsel.” Should that bright line to separate killing from caring now be erased by legislators or judges?
Without a strong resistance movement, the assisted suicide movement will only keep expanding. So far, much of the public has been shielded from the real truth by euphemisms and false reassurances from assisted suicide supporters, a mostly sympathetic mainstream media and often spineless professional and health care organizations.
We all must educate ourselves to speak out before it is too late.