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Assisted suicide initiative is fatally flawed
By Chris Carlson
Voters should reject Initiative 1000 when they mark ballots this fall. I-1000 is poor public policy and contains flaws that endanger us all.
When you read the fine print in I-1000, you will see it contains no real safeguards:
There is no requirement a spouse or family be notified. It is reasonable to imagine an understandably depressed and confused patient opting for the "quick exit" approach without family support.
There is no requirement the death be witnessed. It is possible someone could force feed the lethal dose to the patient. An undetectable crime is committed and the initiative provides the perfect alibi for the perpetrator.
I-1000 contains no mandatory requirement the patient receive a psychological examination. Suicidal tendencies are a cry for help and unmistakable signs of depression. Most frequently, when depression is treated, suicidal thoughts disappear. Society should be providing safe harbors for people nearing the end of their lives, not "quick exits."
With I-1000 the act of assisted suicide is shrouded in secrecy. No opportunity exists for third party review of circumstances surrounding the patient's death. Patient records are sealed and all interested parties are prohibited from viewing the records. There's neither accountability nor transparency.
The doctor signing the death certificate is required to cover-up the lethal drug overdose. According to Section X of Initiative 1000, the underlying illness must be listed on the death certificate. Doctors have objected strongly to this requirement that they falsify the death certificate. In fact, the Washington State Medical Association, along with nurses and hospice workers, oppose Initiative 1000.
The initiative allows one of the two witnesses in the request for assisted suicide to be an heir. This contravenes existing law dealing with wills and estates. It creates the distinct possibility of a relative with ulterior, self-benefitting motives coercing the patient to commit assisted suicide.
I-1000 isn't about end-of-life options. I-1000 contains the distinct probability that the decision to commit assisted suicide will not be yours at all. Safeguards are all but nonexistent.
Advanced directives for health care will no longer be deemed legally sufficient. The doctor-patient relationship of trust and the collaborative process between doctor, patient and family are destroyed.
Insurance, health care and government bureaucrats will be complicit in deciding who lives and who dies.
Oregon is the one state where assisted suicide has been legalized. In Oregon, some cancer patients have received notification from the state health insurance plan that their chemotherapy will not be covered, but that assisted suicide is fully covered. If Initiative 1000 becomes law, low-income people in Washington could face the same devastating health care cost containment.
I-1000 is about the choices others will have over you. It is about shifting public perception and changing public policy. Why should the many who accept the fact that life runs a natural course of events risk putting the government into end-of-life issues just so the few can feel good about committing suicide via a lethal dose of barbiturates?
In our broken health care system, doctors are offered incentives for implementing measures that save profit-driven insurance companies money.
Coercion comes in many forms and is interpreted by patients in many ways. Patients view doctors as authority figures. Hearing the option of assisted suicide from their doctor, patients may very well interpret it as an obligation to commit assisted suicide.
This initiative is not about pain. Current and continuing advances in palliative medicine make almost all patient pain manageable.
Make no mistake, I-1000 is really about profit and power. Derek Humphrey, co-founder of the Hemlock Society, has said: "Euthanasia and physician assisted suicide will inevitably prevail in our society because they make economic sense!"
If you don't want corporations, the government and others intruding into this most private and personal end-of-life affair, vote no on 1000.
Chris Carlson is chairman of the Coalition Against Assisted Suicide. Visit www.noassistedsuicide.com.