IN a supplement to her testimony to the California Senate Health Committee on assisted suicide bill SB 128, disability rights expert Marilyn Golden looks at the supposed safeguards in the bill to see if the state’s remaining 3 or 4 million uninsured, and masses of underinsured, would be safe.
Under the bill:
* Two doctors must agree the person meets the law’s criteria. But there’s considerable evidence that in Oregon, if your doctor tells you no, you can shop for a doctor who will say yes. An overwhelming number of Oregon’s suicides were facilitated via the organization Compassion and Choices. How often do these referred physicians say no? We don’t know. The reports don’t tell us.
If assisted suicide is legal, some people’s lives will be ended without their consent, through mistakes and abuse, argues a US disability rights expert in testimony to the California Senate Health Committee considering an assisted suicide bill. “No safeguards have ever been enacted or even proposed that can prevent this outcome, which can never be undone,” says Marilyn Golden.
Why? For one thing, it’s a “deadly mix” to combine our broken health-care system and assisted suicide, which would instantly become the cheapest treatment. Direct coercion is not even necessary. If insurers deny, or even merely delay, expensive, life-sustaining treatment, patients are steered toward hastening their deaths. Do we think insurers will do the right thing, or the cheap thing?
Campaigns from California to New Zealand to legalise euthanasia in one form or another have focused on attractive young women with terminal cancer who want to avoid suffering pain or loss of mental function at the end of their lives. Their stories are powerful and persuasive.
But so are the stories that we hear less about, like that of California mother Stephanie Packer. The 32-year old wife and mother of four was diagnosed in 2012 with scleroderma, a chronic connective tissue disease which now makes it difficult for her to breathe and prevents her taking food except through a tube inserted in her arm.
A bill which would legalise assisted suicide in Scotland contains “significant flaws”, according to a report by a parliamentary committee. Although most of the committee opposes the principle of the bill, they have decided to allow it to pass to the whole Scottish Parliament for a final decision.
The bill was introduced by former MSP Margo MacDonald, a doughty campaigner for assisted suicide who sponsored a similar bill in 2009. She died in April 2014, but the bill was taken forward by another MSP.
The language of the committee’s report is restrained but tough.
Compassion: “there are other ways of showing solidarity and compassion with those suffering distress, short of helping them to commit suicide.”
America’s leading assisted suicide lobby group, Compassion & Choices, has scored another public relations coup with the release of a third Brittany Maynard video.
Brittany, you will remember, is the 29-year-old woman from California who chose assisted suicide in Oregon last year rather than suffer a slow decline because of a brain tumour.
She made two videos which went viral on YouTube – no wonder, as they were directed by a New York public relations firm which put together a multi-platform media campaign for C&C called “Twenty Nine Years”. A professional story-telling consultant was employed to create the video. The celebrity magazines, the glossy women’s magazines, major newspapers and TV networks were provided with photos and interviews. Brittany became a media sensation.
Never far from the news it seems, the ABC Alice Springs reports today that the Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Medical Association has expelled Philip Nitschke from its ranks.
This news comes immediately after the death of Nitschke's legal council last week. Peter Nugent QC was, according to reports, suffering from stage four cancer but was not understood to be near death. Nitschke told Fairfax Media that Nugent “had options in place” for ending his own life. He also said that Nugent's death was "perplexing" and "a great loss".
On Tuesday, February 17, the Colombian Constitutional Court gave the Ministry of Health 30 days to implement a number of protocols pertaining to euthanasia, setting guidelines for all health care providers in the Andean country.
During this time, health agencies are tasked with forming interdisciplinary committees to advise patients and their families on their decision to resort to euthanasia, in order to prevent such a decision being made as a result of mood or depression.
The Court said that “without clear rules and precise procedures, doctors do not know exactly when they are committing a crime and when they are contributing to the realization of a fundamental right.”
The concern is that the word “suicide” is dismal. It evokes nooses, ovens, bullets, insecticide and 20-storey buildings. When Gallup asked people in 2013 if they approved of doctors "end[ing] the patient's life by some painless means", 70 percent said Yes. When they asked if they approved of doctors helping patients "to commit suicide", that figure dropped to 51 percent. The word "suicide" radiates the baddest of bad vibes.
In a 9-0 ruling the Supreme Court of Canada struck down two sections of Canada’s Criminal Code "insofar as they prohibit physician-assisted death" in circumstances outlined by the Court. It appears that most or all of the major media outlets understood this to mean that the Court had legalized physician assisted suicide.
In fact, the Court has authorized physicians not only to help eligible patients commit suicide, but to kill them - whether or not they are capable of suicide. The ruling permits both physician assisted suicide and physician administered euthanasia in the case of competent adults who have who have clearly consented to being killed, and who have a grievous irremediable medical condition "including an illness, disease or disability" that causes "enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual."
On February 6, the Supreme Court of Canada found the current prohibitions against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) to be violations of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It charged the Canadian federal government with drafting a law to permit the practice.
Our current majority-Conservative government has actually stood firmly against moving in this direction, and was not alone in its opposition. Only four years ago, in 2010, our Parliament voted 228 to 59 against a Private Member’s Bill to legalize euthanasia.
Despite this, in 12 months, Canada is expected to legalize it and PAS, with all the “necessary safeguards” that sold this solution to pain and suffering of citizens around the world.
Careful! is MercatorNet's blog about end-of-life issues. We respect the dignity of each person from the beginning of life to its natural end. Leave your comments at the foot of our articles. The more the better! Write to us at email@example.com.