Friday, March 5, 2010

The Washington State Department of Health has released the 2009 Death with Dignity Act Report.


The Washington State Death with Dignity statistics stated:
- 63 people received a lethal dose,
- 47 of those people died,
- 36 of them were known to have died from ingesting the lethal dose.
- 7 of them were known to have died a natural death (not ingesting the lethal dose).
- 4 of the people who died, it is unknown whether they died from the lethal dose or not.
- The status of the 16 remaining people who were prescribed a lethal dose is unknown.

The report is consistent with concerns related to elder abuse. Most of the participants were older, educated, many had private insurance. (Report, page 5). All such factors correlate with the decedents having had money. Older people with money are prime targets of abuse. Link to an article concerning elder abuse from
http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/mmi-study-broken-trust-elders-family-finances.pdf

There is no proof that the persons consented at the time of death. "Consent" not required by the law. Involuntary killing is allowed by the Death with Dignity Act.
Link to an article in the July 2009 edition of the Washington State Bar Association News: http://wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/jul-09+deathwithdignity.htm

The people who died listed their concerns as follows:
- Losing Autonomy - 100%;
- Less able to engage in activities they enjoy - 91%;
- Loss of Dignity - 82%;
- Losing control of bodily functions - 41%
- Inadequate pain control - 25%
- Burden on family, friends/caregivers - 23%
- Financial implications of treatment - 2%

Inadequate pain control was the prime reason voters supported the I-1000 assisted suicide initiative and yet only 25% identified this as a concern.

End of life concerns such as people feel they are a "burden" is a sign of elder abuse in the form of pressure from others to die.

The Death with Dignity Act specifically devalues people with disabilities. The main concerns people have for requesting assisted suicide are disability related concerns.

It is important to note that:
* The actual reason and the social dimension connected to death by assisted suicide is basically unknown.
* Less than 5% (3 out of 63) people who received a lethal dose were referred for a Psychiatric/ Psychological Assessment. Depressed people often appear to be lucid, when they are not lucid.
* There is no follow up after the lethal dose is dispensed, therefore there is no protection for vulnerable people who are being subtly pressured into assisted suicide.
* There is no witness required at the time of death, therefore there is no way to know that the person chose to die by assisted suicide.
* The reports are filed by the physician who prescribed assisted suicide, it is unlikely that a decision to prescribe a lethal dose to a person who did not qualify, under the act, would be divulged. There are no third party investigations or reports.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition recognizes that voters in Washington State opened a pandora’s box when legalized assisted suicide. We question whether they fully understood the implications of assisted suicide and we have outline how the Act does not protect people from undue pressure from death by assisted suicide.

Link to the report: http://www.doh.wa.gov/dwda/forms/DWDA_2009.pdf

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