Monday, June 10, 2019

Tell Governor Mills to veto the Maine assisted suicide bill.

I have bad news: 
Governor Janet Mills signed LD 1313 into law. We had hoped that she would Kill the Bill but now she has agreed to allow doctors to kill patients.  Alex Schadenberg
By Mark Hodges (EPC researcher)

Last week the Maine House of Representatives and Senate passed a bill that would legalize doctors to proscribe lethal drugs to patients who ask to be killed.

Democratic Governor Janet Mills has ten days to sign LD 1313 into law. Mills said. 
“I’m not really sure about it,”   
“I’m still talking to people on both sides.”
But even if she does nothing, after those ten days it will become law automatically. We need you to tell Gov. Mills to veto the assisted suicide bill.

Governor Janet Mills
1 State House Station 
Augusta, ME 04333
Tel: 207-287-3531 
Fax: 207-287-1034

The Democratic-controlled state House approved the death bill by one vote, 73 to 72. The Democratic-controlled state Senate was also close, with a 19 to 16 vote.

Those who oppose assisted suicide say the one-margin vote is yet another example of how important it is to vote for candidates that oppose assisting suicide. The one vote margin also shows how divided the state of Maine is on assisted suicide.

Alex Schadenberg
Assisted suicide bill LD 1313 professes to defend individual “choice” and autonomy“ but in reality these bills deceptively give physicians, the right in law, to prescribe lethal drugs to patients,” Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Executive Director Alex Schadenberg explained. 

“People are needing care and support, not lethal drugs.”
Linda Milliken wrote in the Portland Press Herald.
“Physician-assisted suicide destroys the doctor-patient relationship, as doctors now become agents of death, rather than comforters and healers,” 
Opponents of assisted suicide have pointed out multiple problems with the legislation, including defining “terminal disease” so broadly as to qualify someone with diabetes as eligible for a lethal dose.

Under the proposed law, patients with treatable conditions are considered “terminal” if they decide not to accept effective medication.

The Maine law is similar to Oregon’s assisted suicide law. An Oregon Health Authority representative admitted they interpret “terminal disease” as including treatable conditions:
“If the patient does not receive treatment or medication (for whatever reason) and is left with a terminal illness, then s/he would qualify for the Death With Dignity Act. I think you could also argue that even if the treatment/medication could actually cure the disease, and the patient cannot pay for the treatment, then the disease remains incurable.”
Nancy Elliot
Former three-term New Hampshire State Representative Nancy Elliot 

“One of the biggest problems is people who qualify for Assisted Suicide are not necessarily dying. Think of a 21-year-old otherwise healthy insulin dependent diabetic. He qualifies if he rejects his insulin. This would be the same for many other people with serious conditions, who take prescription medications.”
Not Dead Yet’s Mike Reynolds cited
Oregon’s doctors have written suicide prescriptions for individuals whose medical basis for eligibility for assisted suicide was listed as diabetes,” 
“People could qualify as ‘terminal’ who have epilepsy, ongoing infections and other illnesses that can be managed with medication.”
Milliken noted in a New York Times article which reported, 
“According to psychiatric experts, the vast majority of people requesting suicide are suffering from treatable depression, and no longer want to kill themselves once their underlying depression is resolved.” 
“Once the depression lifts and people can think more clearly, the therapists say, those who were determined to kill themselves are thankful to be alive, despite their pain or grim prognosis.” 
Elliot points out.
“With Assisted Suicide on the table these mistakes can be deadly. What about the five percent rate of incorrect medical diagnosis?” 
At a hearing in Massachusetts, John Norton testified that “as a young man he was diagnosed with ALS. He stated that had Assisted Suicide been legal at that time he would have used it. A few years in, the disease’s progression just stopped. Now in his late 70s he stated he has had a great life with children and a grandchild. With Assisted Suicide on the table he would have lost all of that.” 
Critics also note that Maine’s assisted suicide bill allows someone besides the patient to administer the lethal drugs. It defines “self-administer” as the patient voluntarily “ingesting” the poison –a phrase that other pro-euthanasia states interpret very loosely.

Schadenberg explains.
“In Washington State, ‘to ingest’ means ‘to absorb,’ thus enabling another person to administer the lethal drugs, so long as it is ‘absorbed,’” 
Schadenberg points out a potential lack of impartiality in the death decision. 
“The bill requires two witnesses (to the suicide request), but one may be a relative or an heir,” he says. “Clearly, a conflict of interest may exist.” 
“The written request must be witnessed by two individuals, only one of whom may be entitled to any portion of the patient’s estate upon death. The second witness could be a close friend of the potential heir,”  
“This places victims of elder abuse and domestic abuse in great danger since they are unlikely to share their fears with outsiders or to reveal that they are being pressured by family members to ‘choose’ assisted suicide.”
Conflict of interest in assisted suicide is greatest among health insurance companies. Instances have been publicized where an insurer refuses to pay for expensive but life-saving treatment, yet will pay for a suicide prescription.

Dr Brian Callister
When Nevada physician Brian Callister transferred patients to California and Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, each patient’s insurer actually asked if he’d suggested assisted suicide – although neither had a terminal illness.

And critics say LD 1313 has no provision for protective oversight against abuse. Once a death doctor writes the lethal prescription, there is no supervision in actually taking the life-ending drugs.

If the person administering the drugs was invested in the patient’s death, such as an heir, the patient could change his or her mind, or even struggle, yet once the poison is “absorbed,” no one would know.

Reynolds told the Bangor Daily News.
“Once the prescription is picked up from the pharmacy, there is absolutely no oversight in the law to protect the ill person from someone else who wants to hurry their death along, be it an insurance carrier, an heir or a caregiver,” 
Reynolds continued
“A friend or relative – even an heir – can ‘encourage’ an elder to make the request, sign the forms as a witness, pick up the prescription, and even administer the drug (with or without consent), because no objective witness is required at death.”
Opponents add that there is no provision for objective, third-party documentation. The same doctor who prescribes poison for his or her patient is the very one who is responsible to report the results of his death procedure.

Schadenberg assessed.
“Self-reporting systems are designed to cover-up abuse. By law, the same doctor is the judge, the jury and the executioner.”
Reynolds concluded.
“The only real protections in the law are for people other than the patient, foreclosing any realistic potential for investigation of foul play,” 
In fact, research proves assisted suicide can result in tremendous suffering by the patient, including “burning patients’ mouths and throats, causing some to scream in pain.” In other instances, “deaths stretched out hours in some patients — and up to 31 hours in one case.”

Reynolds told the Press Herald,
“This is not a ‘dignified’ death,”“It can take up to 104 hours for people to die.”
Newspaper editor John Balentine noted that the bill’s oft-repeated mantra. Balentine told The Forecaster.  
“Death With Dignity,” “purposefully avoids the word ‘suicide.’”
“Suicide is anything but dignified, because that person’s hopes and dreams are snuffed forever,” 
“The associated physical decay triggered by death is tragic and disgusting, far from dignified.” 
“Choosing…death…is also not dignified. Choosing life, rather than death, is dignified. Suffering through pain can be dignified. Giving up is not dignified.”
Balentine concluded.
“I’m always skeptical of those who use linguistic subterfuge to lobby their cause. Those employing the term ‘death with dignity’ are doing just that when lobbying for assisted suicide,”  “Here’s hoping Gov. Mills sees through the Legislature’s misguided – and undignified – political tactics.”
The Maine bill, called by supporters the “Maine Death With Dignity Act,” actually says that a lethal prescription is not suicide, and official death certificates must be falsified to list the patient’s medical condition as the cause of death:
“Actions taken in accordance with this Act do not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, assisted suicide, mercy killing or homicide under the law. State reports may not refer to acts committed under this Act as ‘suicide’ or ‘assisted suicide’…State reports must refer to acts committed under this Act as obtaining and self-administering life-ending medication. A patient’s death certificate…must list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death.”
In other words, “the death certificate is falsified to reflect a natural death,” Elliot summarized.
“All the information is sealed and unavailable to the public.”
Critics also conclude that Maine’s proposed legislation is discriminatory. Assisted suicide not only stifles hope, encourages despair, and takes advantage of the vulnerable, it devalues certain groups of human beings, pushing them into an early death.

Diane Coleman
Not Dead Yet President Diane Coleman 
“Assisted suicide sets up a double standard, with suicide prevention for some and suicide assistance for others, depending on their health or disability,” 
“If such distinctions were based on race or ethnicity, we’d call it bigotry.” 
“The dangers of mistake, coercion and abuse it poses to old, ill and disabled people are rooted in a profound and still largely unacknowledged devaluation of our lives.”
Stephanie Woodward
Stephanie Woodward, Director of Advocacy at the Center for Disability Rights, charged.

People with disabilities and certain illnesses and the elderly “will receive a fast pass, because our lives are viewed as less worthy,” 
Reynolds agreed.
“Assisted-suicide laws are the most blatant forms of discrimination based on disability in our society today,” 
Bishop Robert Deeley of Portland came out vehemently against the bill on principle. Hsaid. 
“To allow doctors to prescribe deadly prescriptions to hasten a person’s death would be a horrendous wound to the dignity of the human person,” 
The Maine bishop predicted consequences of the law would include 
“the elderly feeling undue pressure to view this as an option to prevent being a burden to others, a desensitization of the value of human life, as well as teaching young adults that people can be disposable.”
Elliot opined
“These laws are abusive in their very nature. To suggest to someone that they should kill themselves is abuse,” 
“It would be like saying, ‘You are worthless and should die.’”
Reynolds warned
“We should all be concerned about what kind of message a government sponsored, medically administered program of assisted suicide sends to anyone facing difficult times.”
“Kill the bill, not the patient.”

The American Nurses Association Maine, the Maine Medical Association, the Maine Hospice Council, the Maine Right to Life, the American Cancer Society Action Network, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland the Maine Osteopathic Association, all oppose the Maine legislation.

Suicide activists have tried several times to legalize assisted suicide in Maine. In 2015, a suicide measure was defeated in the state Senate by only one vote. A similar bill failed in the state House in 2017. An attempt was made in 2018 to put the issue to a popular vote.

Assisted suicide was first legalized in Oregon in 1997 after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially ruled the issue was up to the states. Since then, the state of Washington (2008), Vermont (2013 in an even less restrictive measure), California (2015, currently in effect but being fought in court), Colorado (2016), Washington D.C. (2017), Hawaii (2018), and most recently New Jersey (2019) have legalized doctor-prescribed death.  In 2009, Montana's state supreme court did not legalize assisted suicide but created a defense of consent, if a physician is prosecuted for assisted suicide. 

New Jersey Catholic Governor Phil Murphy signed his state’s killing bill in April. He said that while his faith opposed assisted suicide, 
“after careful consideration, internal reflection, and prayer.” 
“as a public official I cannot deny this alternative to those who may reach a different conclusion.”
We need you to tell Gov. Mills to veto the assisted suicide bill.

Governor Janet Mills
1 State House Station Augusta, ME  04333
Tel: 207-287-3531 or Fax: 207-287-1034

Similar bills are pending in several states with New York being the greatest concern.


Cecily Gietzen said...

Would you mind if I linked your article (and cited some quotations) in my email to the governor? Thank you!

Alex Schadenberg said...

Dear Cecily:

We actually want you to use the quotations.

Cecily Gietzen said...

Great! Sorry if I'm misunderstanding, but may I also link this article/post in addition to the quotations?