Hearing on SB261, Doctor Prescribed Suicide, May 10th, 3.30 PM

Hearing on SB261, Doctor Prescribed Suicide, May 10th, 3.30 PM

For Immediate Release

May 9, 2017

Contact: Don Nelson 775-530-0029, donnelson@sbcglobal.net


Hearing on SB261, Doctor Prescribed Suicide, May 10th, 3.30 PM

After abruptly cancelling a hearing on SB261 on April 12th in response to mass opposition to the bill, a hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday May 10th at 3:30 PM in the Senate Health and Human Services committee in room 2149 of the Legislative Building, 401 S. Carson St., Carson City, NV and in room 4412 of the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., Las Vegas, NV by video conference.

A diverse coalition of state and national organizations and leaders, including the American College of Physicians, are joining together in opposition to Senate Bill 261. Terminally ill patients, disability rights advocates, and physicians practicing in Nevada will be on hand to provide testimony about their opposition to assisted suicide and why this will negatively Nevada’s most vulnerable and their families.

At a press conference on April 12th, the scheduled day of the abruptly cancelled hearing, opponents noted that “the measure was dangerous and a ‘profound and dramatic change in public policy.’”

Some dangers posed by this profound and dramatic change in public policy:

Based on experiences in other states, we know that doctor prescribed suicide poses substantial risks to patients who coverage or treatment denials by insurance companies.  Stephanie Packer, who spoke at the press conference on April 12th was diagnosed with a terminal disease, and was told she had 3 years to live.  She has outlived her prognosis, but noted that when California passed its assisted suicide bill, her insurance company informed her that they would no longer cover her treatments. They told her however that they will cover the cheaper alternative of life ending drugs.  She told the AP, “They’re good businessmen; they’ll go for these assisted-suicide pills every time.”

Nevadans Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide also note the following.

  • 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.
  • 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…
  • 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 health 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.
  • 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)
  • 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.