|Dr Jacqueline Harvey|
In late 2012, I conducted a thorough literature review that scoured academic studies on the effects of assisted suicide (AS). The goal was to learn the consequences to states which have legalized this practice (specifically Oregon and Washington) in order to determine the actual costs and benefits with which to compare to claims by both AS proponents and opponents alike. Opponents cited fears of poor end-of-life care, elder abuse and misdiagnosis - all of which have been vindicated by research. Predictions that legal AS may lead to coaxing and coercing unwilling patients toward ending their lives by limiting or denying palliative care have been confirmed by reports of incidents where terminally ill citizens were told by state medical plan authorities that they would not pay the cost of pain-control, but would cover the cost of their suicides. While spending for palliative care has increased, one study indicated that 24 percent of patients who chose AS reported that they did not have adequate finances to cover expenditures for medical care and equipment, in spite of the fact that 98 percent of respondents had health insurance. Pressure on patients to end their lives for the benefit of others has been established in Oregon and Washington in study after study, which found patients choosing AS did not report a higher quality of death than those dying naturally, but caregivers sometimes did. Additional research also found that caregivers of patients in both Oregon and Washington who ended their lives by AS were themselves suffering from substantial financial and health-related harms, and although respondents claim that none of these factors was associated with the decision to end the patient’s life, Washington State reported in 2011 that over half of respondents choosing AS mentioned “concerns about being a burden” as a reason for choosing to take their own lives.
Furthermore, new studies have emerged since my last literature review regularly that show negative consequences to society that opponents had not yet fathomed. For example, exposure to suicide leads to an increase in the likelihood of suicide (a phenomenon known as “suicide contagion”) which was confirmed in this study released in 2013 and suggests that acceptable AS may contribute to an increase in suicides among even those who are not ill and not facing the natural end of their lives.
AS is an act condemned by the medical community and deemed devastating through scientific studies and my review of these articles fail to suggest any benefits of AS, but rather have uncovered scores of negative consequences in those states that have this practice. I urge you to take these states as a cautionary tale and vote against S.B. 668 and its attempt to legalize assisted suicide, for the sake of the citizens of Connecticut who are vulnerable and in most need of protection from the effects of legalized euthanasia.
Jacqueline C. Harvey, Ph.D., M.S.S.W.