When I first read the End of Life Assistance Bill in Scotland I recognized that this bill would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities, people with chronic conditions, or people with terminal conditions. I then spoke with Margaret Dore, the great attorney from Seattle. She pointed out several other grievous parts to the bill. Analysing legislative proposals can be difficult because the language of the bills, like this one, are often intentionally vague in order to make the bill appear to have strict "safeguards" where in fact the bill is wide-open.
The legislation is called the "End of Life Assistance" Bill.
In the Act "end of life assistance" means assistance, including the provision (assisted suicide) or administration (euthanasia) of appropriate means, to enable a person to die with dignity and a minimum distress.
By using the terminology - end of life assistance, she is attempting to create confusion surrounding the fact that this bill would legalizing euthanasia (which is usually done by lethal injection) and assisted suicide (a lethal dose).
This bill Section 1 states:
It is not a criminal offence or a delect for a person -
(a) to privide end of life assistance in accordance with this act; or
(b) to privide assistance (assisted suicide), including assistance by participating in any step (euthanasia) required by this Act, to enable another person (possibly not restricted to medical practitioners) to obtain or provide end of life assistance in accordance with this Act.
This section is a blanket immunity for any person who provides "end of life assistance" or who assists with it.
It is important to point out that Section 1 of the Act uses the term (any person). Section 1 provides blanket immunity for a person who (participates in any step required by this Act). This section provides a wide permission for a person to be directly and intentionally involved with causing another person's death.
Section 2 Need for two formal requests.
Section 2 simply requires two formal requests.
Section 2 states that a registered medical practitioner must approve the formal requests. This section does not provide any effective safeguards. The euthanasia lobby will simply develop a list of supportive medical practitioners.
Section 3, Revocability of request for assistance.
In Section 3(1) the bill states that End of life assistance may not be provided if...
Section 3(2) states: Such notice does not prevent a subsequent request ...
Therefore the practitioner could simply say that the person changed their mind again.
Basically, Section 3 states that by signing up for "end of life assistance" the person is potentially making an irrevocable request for euthanasia or assisted suicide and if the person changes their mind and yet dies by euthanasia anyway, the bill has a built in defense mechanism to protect the practitioner or anyone else who is involved with the death.
Section 4: Eligibility requirements.
Section 4 outlines that the people with disabilities, chronic conditions or "terminally ill" can die by euthanasia or assisted suicide. The definition of terminally ill (the person suffers from a progressive condition and if death within six months in consequence of that condition can reasonably be expected) is very broad and would include an insulin dependent person who decides to forgo insulin. The Act does not require a person to continue beneficial treatments such as insulin.
Section 5, Requirements relating to designated practitioners and psychiatrists
Section 5 is unenforceable because there is no penalty for violating this section.
Section 6, Requirements relating to first formal request
Section 6 is unenforceable because their are no penalties for violating this section.
Section 7, Consideration of first formal request by designated practioner,
Subsection 1 states that the designated practitioner must physically meet with the requesting person and discuss with that person ...
To discuss these concerns with the requesting person leaves the decision as to whether or not the person is approved to the practitioner. This confirms the reality that this bill gives the practitioner the right to directly and intentionally cause a person's death. The only choice or autonomy related to this Act is exercised by the practitioner and not the requesting person.
Further to that, if a practitioner rejects the request for "end of life assistance" the person can simply "doctor shop." The euthanasia lobby will simply develop a list of supportive practitioners, like they have done in Oregon, and provide a referral service. In other words this section amounts to nothing.
The fact that the Bill refers to the need for a report from a psychiatrist is once again providing an illusion of safeguards. Refer to section 9.
Section 8, Requirements relating to second formal request,
Similar to other jurisdictions, Section 8 is providing a "waiting period" to determine whether the person actually wants to die by euthanasia or assisted suicide. Waiting periods are a good idea but they provide very little protection from undue influence.
Section 9, Consideration of capacity etc. by psychiatrist,
The involvement of the psychiatrist in the process is a potential safeguard, but because the bill has such a wide application - people with disabilities, chronic conditions or "terminally ill", therefore the role of the psychiatrist is really to approve "thumbs up" or to reject "thumbs down".
Section 10, Agreement on provision of assistance,
This section approves a process whereby the practitioner and the requesting person will establish an agreement as to how they will go about the euthanasia or assisted suicide death.
Subsection 1(b) asks - who is to provide the end of life assistance.
When considering that Section 1 refers to any person, in a similar manner this subsection does not prevent people who are not medical practitioners to carry-out the act, so long as it is part of the "agreement."
Subsection (2) states: The agreement must be in writing, signed by both the requesting person and the designated practioner, and dated.
This subsection outlines that this is a legal contract. There is no requirement that a lawyer or other witnesses be involved with this contract. No witness and no counsel is necessary.
Section 11, Requirements relating to the actual provision of assistance,
Section 11 only requires that the designated practitioner be present at the death. No - third party - witness is required.
There is also no Coroners report required. A coroner's report is filed after the death, so it is not a safeguard, but it does provide some information for society to investigate the actual practice.
I have read Margo MacDonald's - End of Life Assistance Bill several times. The Bill would legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide in Scotland. The bill essentially grants a "blank cheque to kill" people with disabilities, chronic conditions or terminally ill.
MacDonald has attempted to create the appearance of strict safeguards. She appears to have wanted her bill to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for a large group of people, including herself, yet she knew that the bill needed an illusion of protection for vulnerable persons.
The fact is that people with disabilities and those who live with chronic conditions need to strongly respond to this bill because it directly focuses on eliminating their lives.