Monday, May 13, 2013

Vermont assisted suicide bill S-77 is a "bait and switch."

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Vermont legislators need to reject assisted suicide bill S-77, that works as a "bait and switch." 

S-77 has been sold to legislators as "providing patient choice" with safeguards to protect people with disabilities and others.

S-77 does not effectively safeguard people from assisted suicide and it does not assure protection for people with disabilities and others.

Washington State attorney, Margaret Dore stated:
The most obvious problem is a complete lack of oversight over administration of the lethal dose. No doctor, not even a lay witness is required. 
Dore explains how the language of S-77 does not assure patient choice:

1. No witnesses at the death

S.77 does not require witnesses at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for the patient’s heir, or for another person who will benefit financially from the death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?

Without disinterested witnesses, the patient’s choice and control over his death is not guaranteed.

2. Someone else is allowed to talk for the patient

Under S.77, patients obtaining the lethal dose are required to be “capable.” This is, however, a relaxed standard in which someone else is allowed to talk for the patient. S.77 states:

“Capable” means that a patient has the ability to make and communicate health care decisions to a physician, including communication through persons familiar with the patient’s manner of communicating . . .” (Emphasis added). 
The person talking for the patient is not required to be a trusted person designated by the patient, for example, an agent under an advanced directive. The person talking for the patient is allowed to be an heir. With this circumstance, the patient is not necessarily in control of his fate.

3. An heir is allowed to procure the patient’s request for the lethal dose

S.77 prohibits an heir from acting as a witness on the written request for the lethal dose.  S.77 does not, however, prohibit an heir from procuring that request. An example of procuring would be: providing the written request to the patient; recruiting the witnesses; and supervising the signing. S.77, which allows an heir to procure the request, does not promote patient choice and control. It invites coercion. 

4. An heir is allowed to pick up the lethal dose at the pharmacy

S.77 allows the lethal dose to be picked up at the pharmacy by “an expressly identified agent of the patient.” S.77 does not prohibit an heir, or another person who will benefit financially from the death, from being this agent.

Amy Hasbrouck, Not Dead Yet
John Kelly, Second Thoughts
Disability rights groups respond. 

Not Dead Yet expressed, in an article entitled: Vermont Assisted Suicide bill allows a Third Party to speak for an elder or disabled person, that the language of S-77, does not protect people with disabilities from assisted suicide, and it perpetuates discrimination towards people with disabilities. Not Yet Yet stated:
Discrimination is at the heart of assisted suicide legislation. When disabled people come into contact with medical professionals, they judge our quality of life to be so poor that death may be preferable. When some members of society consider the possibility of acquiring disabling conditions, they believe that it might be better to “choose” death.
Bait & Switch
John Kelly, the leader of the disability rights group Second Thoughts stated:
Vermont doctors, will be made into gatekeepers of death, judging some reasons (e.g., embarrassment over incontinence) as rational reasons for suicide, but (presumably) rejecting others as not rational.  Disabled people’s concern is that these disability related reasons are the products of a complex array of social conditioning, stigma and failings in public policy, and should never be used to justify providing suicide assistance rather than suicide prevention.
The language of S-77 works as a "bait and switch."
S.77's assurance of patient choice and control is untrue. 
Vermont legislators need to reject S.77, it is simply unsafe.

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