By Rita Marker
NY Times - April 10, 2012
Even in the Netherlands where tolerance reigns supreme, the Dutch are beginning to have second thoughts. Based on the recent establishment of mobile euthanasia clinics and on calls to expand eligibility for euthanasia and assisted suicide to anyone over 70 years old, alarm has grown that things could spin out of control.
In the U.S., Oregon transformed the crime of assisted suicide into a "medical treatment" in 1994. Since then, more than 120 Oregon-style laws have been proposed in states across the country. With the exception of Washington in 2008, all have failed. Proponents of doctor-prescribed suicide claim that Oregon's annual reports prove the law is working well. But, contrary to that claim, there's no way of knowing what's really happening. As the state agency charged with overseeing the practice stated in a report summary, there's no way to know if data provided by prescribing doctors is accurate or complete, and the state has no authority to investigate assisted-suicide deaths.
Far more important than statistics and reports is the healthy fear underlying skepticism surrounding doctor-prescribed suicide. There's one aspect of doctor-prescribed suicide that we should all be able to agree upon: once legalized, it's the cheapest form of "medical treatment" available.
"With spiraling health care costs, we have to wonder how long it is before life-prolonging treatments aren't covered by insurance, but doctor-prescribed suicide is."At a time of spiraling health care costs and increased control of our health care decisions by insurance companies and the government alike, we have to wonder how long it is before life-prolonging treatments that patients want and need aren't covered by insurance -- but doctor-prescribed suicide is. That has already happened in Oregon.
Even those who support the concept of assisted suicide are reluctant to embrace it when they ask themselves one very important question: If doctor-prescribed suicide is considered a medical treatment, do we trust profit-driven insurance companies and government bureaucrats to do the right thing -- or the cheap thing?
Rita L. Marker is a lawyer and the executive director of the Patients Rights Council.