FACTS on ASSISTED SUICIDE
• Terminal prognosis are often wrong. Individuals outlive their diagnoses by months and even years. Assisted suicide legislation leads people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives.
• Assisted suicide legalization has failed more times than it has succeeded. There have been over 140 legalization attempts in the past 20 years, yet only 3 states have actually legalized it through legislative or voter action.
• The witness to a prescription request could be someone who would inherit from the patient. Once the prescription is written, a relative or abusive caregiver can pick it up and give it to the patient in food or drink. Since no witness is required at the time of death, who would know if the patient consented?
• If assisted suicide is made legal, it quickly becomes just another form of treatment and as such, will always be the cheapest option. This is troublesome in a cost-conscious healthcare environment. Oregonian Barbara Wagner was denied coverage of her cancer treatment but received a letter from the Oregon Health Plan that stated the plan would cover assisted suicide. Another Oregon resident, Randy Stroup, received an identical letter, telling him that the Oregon Health Plan would cover the cost of his assisted suicide, but would not pay for medical treatment for his prostate cancer.
• Assisted suicide poses a threat to those living with disabilities or who are in vulnerable circumstances. When assisted suicide becomes an option, pressure can be placed on these individuals to take that option.
• The mental heath and other safeguards in Oregon and Washington have proven to be hollow as they are easily circumvented. Patients are not required to receive a lethal prescription from their attending physician and can “doctor-shop”.
• Nothing in the Oregon or Washington style laws can protect from explicit or implicit family pressures to commit suicide or personal fears of “being a burden.” There is also no requirement that a doctor evaluate family pressures the patient may be under.
• Oregon’s data on assisted suicide is flawed, incomplete and tells us very little. The state does not investigate cases of abuse, and has admitted, “We cannot determine whether physician assisted suicide is being practiced outside the framework of the Death with Dignity Act.” The state has also acknowledged destroying the underlying data after each annual report.1
• Prescription requests from terminally ill individuals for suicide drugs are often based on fear and depression. Most cases of depression among terminally ill people can be successfully treated. Yet primary care physicians are generally not experts in diagnosing depression. Nothing in the Oregon or Washington assisted suicide laws compel doctors to refer patients for evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to screen for depression or mental illness.
• Under Oregon and Washington law, there is nothing to compel doctors to encourage a patient to notify family members as a support system to aid in the process or even be present.
• Countries such as the Netherlands, where assisted suicide has been legal for decades, show that assisted suicide cannot be contained or limited to the terminally ill. (See Dr. Herbert Hendon commentary, click here)
• Barbiturates do not assure a peaceful death
Barbiturates are the most common substances used for assisted suicide in Oregon and Washington. Overdoses of barbiturates are known to cause distress and have associated issues:
o Extreme gasping and muscle spasms
o While losing consciousness, a person can vomit and then inhale the vomit
o Panic, feelings of terror and assaultive behavior from the drug-induced confusion
o Failure of drugs to induce unconsciousness
o A number of days elapsing before death occurs or death does not occur