Thursday, May 26, 2011

Assisted Suicide Opponents Respond to the Shut Down of Assisted Suicide Kit Business in San Diego

For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 26, 2011 Contact: Tim Rosales (916) 475-4900

Assisted Suicide Opponents Respond to the Shut Down of Assisted Suicide Kit Business in San Diego

Sacramento – While the action by law enforcement to shut down a troubling helium-hood assisted suicide kit business operating in San Diego County is a positive development, there are still groups and organizations promoting the spread of assisted suicide as mainstream public policy. The practice of assisted suicide, legal only in Oregon and Washington, present very real and dangerous public policy and societal implications, particularly to people living with depression, serious disease or disability. For example in 2008, Oregon television station KATU ran a story about cancer patient Barbara Wagner who was denied chemotherapy medication by the Oregon state health plan, and instead was told the state would pay for assisted suicide. Link to Barbara Wagner story.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide is a broad based coalition of healthcare, disability rights, patients rights and civil rights organizations that has fought legalization of assisted suicide since 2005. Below is an excerpt of an opinion piece written in opposition to a 2007 assisted suicide legalization bill in California by Disability Rights, Education and Defense policy analyst Marilyn Golden. This legislation was ultimately defeated on a bipartisan vote:

Why Progressives Should Oppose Assisted Suicide


Marilyn Golden
Perhaps the most significant reason is the deadly mix between assisted suicide and profit-driven managed health care. Again and again, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and managed care bureaucracies have overruled physicians’ treatment decisions, sometimes hastening patients’ deaths. The cost of the lethal medication generally used for assisted suicide is about $35 to $50, far cheaper than the cost of treatment for most long-term medical conditions. The incentive to save money by denying treatment already poses a significant danger. This danger would be far greater if assisted suicide is legal.

If patients with limited finances are denied other treatment options by their insurance, they are, in effect, being steered toward assisted death. It is no coincidence that the author of Oregon’s assisted suicide law, Barbara Coombs Lee, was an HMO executive when she drafted it.

A 1998 study from Georgetown University’s Center for Clinical Bioethics underscores the link between profit-driven managed health care and assisted suicide. The research found a strong link between cost-cutting pressure and a willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients, were it legal to do so. The study warns that there must be “a sobering degree of caution in legalizing [assisted suicide] in a medical care environment that is characterized by increasing pressure on physicians to control the cost of care.”

Each year, Oregon publishes a statistical report that leaves out more than it states. For example, several of these reports have included language such as “We cannot determine whether assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the law.” The statute provided no resources or even authority to detect violations. All we know comes from doctors who prescribed the drugs, not family members or friends who probably have additional information about the patients. Doctors that fail to report their lethal prescriptions face no penalty. The state doesn’t even talk to doctors who refused to assist the very same patients other physicians later helped to die, though these doctors who first said “no” may have viewed the patients as not meeting legal requirements, important information if one wishes to evaluate the law’s outcomes. Autopsies are not required, so there’s no way to ascertain the deceased was actually terminally ill, opening the door to another Dr. Kevorkian. The state’s research has never reported on several prominent cases inconsistent with the law – these cases came to light only via the media. Last March, an editorial in The Oregonian complained that the law’s reporting system “seems rigged to avoid finding” the answers.

We must separate our private wishes for what we each may hope to have available for ourselves someday and, rather, focus on the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide in this society as it operates today. This column is sure to bring howls from those already ideologically supportive of legalization, but anyone who wants to look deeper, beyond the simplistic mantras of choice and “right to die,” are encouraged to read other articles and testimony that can be found in these locations:

* A longer article by Marilyn Golden at:
* Dr. Herbert Hendin, Medical director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, at:
* Testimony by Dr. Gregg Hamilton, Physicians for Compassionate Care, at:

No comments: