Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Massachusetts: Assisted suicide is a recipe for elder abuse; do not be deceived.

This article is a reprint of the article that Margaret Dore published yesterday on her blog. Link.

Margaret Dore
By Margaret Dore

A ballot initiative to legalize physician-assisted suicide via a "death with dignity" act is now in the signature-gathering stage in Massachusetts.[1]

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in just two states: Oregon and Washington.[2] In both states, acts to legalize the practice were enacted via sound-bite ballot initiative campaigns.[3] No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature. Just this year, bills to legalize assisted suicide were defeated in Montana, New Hampshire and Hawaii.[4] Just this year, Idaho enacted a statute to strengthen its law against assisted suicide.[5]

The proposed Massachusetts act is a recipe for elder abuse. Key provisions include that an heir, who will benefit financially from a patient's death, is allowed to participate as a witness to help sign the patient up for the lethal dose. See Section 21 of the act, allowing one of two witnesses on the lethal dose request form to be an heir. This situation invites undue influence and coercion. See act here.

Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight. The act does not require witnesses when the lethal dose is administered. See act here. Without disinterested witnesses, an opportunity is created for an heir, or another person who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to him without his consent. Even if he struggled who would know?

In Massachusetts, proponents are framing the issue as religious. In Washington state, proponents used a similar tactic and even religious slurs to distract voters from the pitfalls of legalization. What the proposed law said and did was all but forgotten.
Do not be deceived.

* * *
Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide. Her publications include Margaret K. Dore, "Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse and the Illusion of Personal Choice," The Vermont Bar Journal, Winter 2011.
* * *
[1]  To view the proposed Massachusetts initiative, click here.
[2]  In Montana, there is a court decision that gives doctors who cause or aid a suicide, a potential defense to criminal prosecution for homicide. The decision does not legalize assisted suicide by giving doctors or anyone else immunity from criminal prosecution and civil liability. To learn more, go here.   The assisted suicide promotion group, Compassion & Choices, has a new campaign claiming that assisted suicide is "already legal" in Hawaii. This is an odd claim given that bills to legalize assisted suicide in Hawaii have repeatedly failed, most recently this year. See the most recent bill in Hawaii.
[3]  Oregon's physician-assisted suicide act was enacted via Ballot Measure 16. Washington's act was enacted via Initiative 1000.
[4]  In Montana, SB 167 was tabled in Committee and subsequently died on April 28, 2011. In New Hampshire, HB 513 was defeated on March 16, 2011. In Hawaii, SB 803 was defeated on February 7, 2011.
[5]  On July 1 2011, Idaho's new statute strengthening Idaho law against assisted suicide went into effect.

No comments: