Friday, June 17, 2011

A Response to The Nation: Legal Assisted Suicide is a Recipe for Abuse; Health Care Providers are Empowered to Steer Patients to Suicide

By Margaret Dore, an attorney in Washington State who specializes in issues related to elder abuse. Link to her website.

Yesterday, NPR and The Nation featured a pro-assisted suicide commentary by Ann Neumann. [The Nation: Keeping the Right to Die Alive].(1) Her commentary overlooked gaps in the Oregon and Washington assisted-suicide laws. She uncritically accepted Compassion & Choices marketing claims that it promotes patient choice for "terminal" patients. This blog post presents the other side.

A Recipe for Abuse
Physician-assisted suicide laws in Oregon and Washington have gaps that put patients at risk.(2) The most obvious gap is a lack of witnesses at the death.(3) Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for someone else to administer the lethal dose to the patient against his will. Even if the patient struggled, who would know?

Barbara Coombs Lee is a Former "Managed Care Executive"

Neumann's commentary describes Compassion & Choices and its president, Barbara Coombs Lee, as promoters of patient choice.(4) Compassion & Choices is the former Hemlock Society.(5) It advocates for legal physician-assisted suicide, which it terms "aid-in-dying."

In 2008, Oregon resident Barbara Wagner wanted treatment for cancer.(6) The Oregon Health Plan (Medicare) offered her assisted-suicide instead.(7) After Wagner’s death, Barbara Coombs Lee wrote an criticizing Wagner for her choice to be treated.(8) Coombs Lee also defended the Oregon Health Plan, which had steered Wagner to suicide.(9)

Perhaps not a coincidence, Coombs Lee is a former "managed care executive."(10) She argued against Barbara Wagner's choice.

Ending Lives

Compassion & Choices advocates for assisted suicide for "terminally ill adult patients," which as defined by Compassion & Choices would include young people with "decades" to live. This is what Compassion & Choices proposed in Montana in 2009. See pages 1 to 3 at - link.

In Oregon and Washington, terminal is defined in terms of having less than six months to live. Even then, the people at issue are not necessarily dying. This is the point of a 2009 article from Washington State: Patients can live years beyond expectations.(11)

With the topic of "aid in dying," the people at issue are not necessarily dying. They may have years or even decades to live. For these people, Compassion & Choices' advocacy is about ending their lives.

Fighting Back
In 2010, Compassion & Choices claimed that assisted suicide was legal in Idaho. A former Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court denounced the claim as "false."(12) In 2011, the Idaho legislature enacted a statute to strengthen Idaho’s law against causing or aiding a suicide.(13)

In 2011, proposed assisted suicide bills failed in Montana, Hawaii and New Hampshire.(14) In New Hampshire, the Committee report to defeat the bill stated:
"This bill is a recipe for . . . abuse. The committee also recognizes that doctors’ diagnoses and predictions may be incorrect; numerous cases exist where people have lived far beyond their doctor’s predictions, some of them having been cured from their terminal disease. . . .This bill represents bad policy and practice . . ."
House Journal, Vol. 33, No. 28, p. 883-885.


The claim that legal assisted suicide promotes patient choice is marketing rhetoric. These laws are a recipe for abuse. They empower health care providers to steer patients to suicide. They encourage citizens to cut short their lives. Don’t be fooled.

Link to the original article.


AnneMarie Florizone-Sawka said...

Hi, this comment comes from Regina,Sask.; I am involved with the last days and continual suffering of my friend Rose. I interviewed the Priest, the Nurse, and care worker; as well as her 5 nieces. They were all in agreement that Morphine doesn't always work in the most painful cases of Cancer. They agreed that a drip would regulate her ease but caused other complications such as difficulty swallowing and drinking. She is now resting comfortably but with day to live.
My heart is broken because at 84 she still could have a life. She herself wanted a DNR on her file.Comments please.

Ironsides said...

I was just going back through some recent articles and blog posts, and noticed this comment from Saskatchewan.

I'm a long-term care patient for chronic-COPD patients. Due to aging-related birth-defects, I have needed people's help to do basic everyday routines.

Since home-care workers are the same as hospital and institutional workers, I had to move into long-term in 2000. Home-care workers were no more reliable than on-site workers.--So, in the process, I was stranded several times by workers who never turned-up, and never called their agencies to send a replacement. As a result, I had a respiratory-failure, and had to close my apartment.

For about two years, a guy next to me was transferred from the Montreal-Neurological Institute ( 1 of 5 MUHC sites).

I was in a crisis myself, in partial respiratory-failure, and fighting to breathe.--A total insomniac. When this guy from Pakistan was transferred next to me, the first time I heard him yell, totally freaked-me-out.

He was so loud, PA's were there faster than usual (first day or two). When a nurse would give him his morphine, it would help him for around 3 hours.

This poor guy has to be the absolute ultimate example, of a patient in real intolerable pain. It was ear-shattering, when nurses would drag their butts down the hall.--And different times PA's and nurses yelling at me for ringing the bell for him.

Doctors never seemed to get a diagnosis on hiis root-cause of pain, and he did not seem to understand much French or English.

During this time, I was doing anything I could to crush Francine Lalonde's three euthanasia/assisted-suicide Bills, and trying to recover from my respiratory-failure caused from a gnupagen drug and starvation from a new kitchen-manager.--Who cut the food supply in half, soon after she became manager.

Several times this patient went to appointments and tests at the Neuro, and they were able at different stages to regulate his meds. enough, so he could attend patient activities.

Eventually, his pain level progressed to where he required higher doses. When it got to the stage he required more morphine, I think he chose palliative-sedation. This way, he could receive pain-relief before becoming fully awake.

In the end, he died, which was inevitable.

However, he died from natural causes.--And he assured me that ne did not want to be killed, and was against legalizing euthanasia/assisted-suicide.

One thing I mentioned to him a few times, was that addiction itself creates pain from all pain-killer drugs. I encouraged him a few times before they moved him to a private-room, to try going longer periods without his next injection.

Anyway, he required extreme measures to manage his pain, and when his pain was intolerable, he chose palliative-sedation.

If the lady in Saskatchewan's friend was not receiving an adequate level of pain-management, doctors need training.

One thing people in Saskatchewan need to realize, however, is that most people out there seem to have made a hero out of Robert Latimer.

There is no need to "legalize" killing--period!

Before these KILL-SOCIETIES got on stage, and get constant media-coverage to LIE about their "safeguards" working so well, doctors never had the fear they have to treat patients.

Instead of supporting and advertising for these health-care industry "experts" to scare the population about things they know very little about, they should support the doctors and lawyers who reject legalized killings.

Then, patients will be treated properly, and have their choices honoured and respected.--At the same time, targeted disposables will not be killed without needed prosecution, including Yves Robert.

What he did within the past two years, is make clear threats against patients. Death-threats in this country is a serious crime, and I do not understand why nobody ever picked-up on it, and pressed-charges against him.