Bob Orleck, sent the following article in italics below, to True Dignity Vermont. Orleck was in the Senate and House for every stage of the assisted suicide debate in Vermont and he knows exactly what happened. As a pharmacist with detailed knowledge of how the suicide drugs work, Bob is appalled that this law was passed.
Pharmacist and Legislative Observer: Physician-assisted Suicide Was More Important to Vermont Legislators Than the Wrongful and Tragic Loss of Innocent Human Life.
By Bob Orleck, Pharmacist
A very accurate analysis of what Act 39 (physician assisted suicide) will mean in real life practice to real hurting people was written by Edward J. Mahoney, Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care, and published in the 5 July edition of the Burlington Free Press.
While Mr. Mahoney has pointed to many legislative errors, there will be more discovered as application of this law meets the multitude of fact situations and abuses that will present. What was clear from the beginning, even with consideration of the Oregon style bill before it morphed into what we got, was that Vermont’s legislature for political reasons refused to deliberate on the many dangerous facets of this legislation. They focused solely on appealing to special interests both in and out of our State of Vermont and ignored the good of the people. Their work is an embarrassment and needs to be fixed. To have a special session though, with the same cast of characters who walk in lock step, will probably prove fruitless. They were blind to the truth then and they will most likely chose to stay in the dark in the future. A special session though, driven by a realization that serious errors were made, might lead to a more sufficient vetting of the issues and a change in course for our lawmakers, one that realizes they went down the wrong path of being controlled by ignorance, politics and emotion instead of by sound medical judgment, scientific facts and the best interests of Vermonters.
Our Vermont legislators in their last minute rush to salvage what appeared to be certain rejection of the Oregon styled Physician Assisted Suicide bill, made a deal with an ego driven lawmaker to get some manner of death legislation. In so doing they threw caution to the wind, carelessly drafted language, then failed to do critical examination of their work and instead cranked up the emotion level and crammed it though with pressure from Governor Shumlin and by the recognized hard work of Speaker Shap Smith, who maneuvered and controlled the House debate to gain passage of the bill in his chamber. This may well be the undoing of at least both of these politicians, who did not do their homework on this last minute compromise and who should pay the price by being turned out of office in the future for violating the trust they were given by the people not to do harm. In that they failed miserably and should be held accountable by the voters.
It was so hard to watch the actions of the legislature move toward the passage of physician assisted suicide when there was so much valid and scientific evidence available and presented that was ignored. I could not understand this until True Dignity Vermont made the point that cleared up the whole matter for me. Casualties were acceptable! As simple as that! That is why the legislators ignored the doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, nurses and ethicists. They knew from the beginning exactly what they were doing and what the cost of doing it would be, and there was no way they were going to allow facts to stand in the way.
Throughout the debate on this bad law, Act 39, it was amazing how easily the majority of Vermont lawmakers accepted the fiction that physicians can accurately predict the amount of life left in a person. Medicare and hospice require that a patient, to be eligible for coverage, must have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less to live if their condition is allowed to run its natural course. It was never intended that this physician’s prognosis be the basis for making a person eligible for a procedure to make that death happen before the six months. So many times these predictions are wrong and the patient lives much longer. In fact under the care provided by hospice their life can and is often prolonged beyond what it would otherwise have been before the six month prediction. This was not meant to be a pronouncement to trigger a life ending procedure but one to provide care to a person who is dying and needs support. But the death proponents had to have a test so they latched on to these often used but scientifically lacking guesses that physicians are called upon to make. For widespread acceptability of physician assisted suicide the proponents had to limit the application to those patients who appeared to be facing imminent death. Without such, they would have failed. But what is troubling to my thinking is that I believe they knew quite well that the test was flawed but were willing to accept that because they had to win at any cost.
I am a pharmacist, and so many times I tried to point out to the lawmakers that there were dangers in the dosing procedure that was to be used to bring about the death and that those dangers would result in botched attempts, horrific side effects and even exacerbation of already painful situations for a large percentage of dying patients. In some cases the patient would not even die from the procedure but would surely suffer greatly. I asked our legislators to address the objective facts supporting my opinion but could not get them to even respond other than to say they thought the bill had safeguards and was a good bill. They had to avoid this evidence just as they accepted the fictional certainty of a six month physician prognosis in order to get their death bill passed. They had to realize there would be casualties along the way but that would be acceptable in order to accomplish their death on demand objective. They wanted this death law and considered the price affordable. For these folks, physician assisted suicide was more important to them than the wrongful and tragic loss of an innocent human life. But now it appears that in their zeal to get the job done, they carelessly and negligently created a monster that will keep raising its ugly head and doing more damage than even they had expected and that might just cost them their position of power.