This map shows the status of laws prohibiting or permitting assisted suicide, including physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in the United States. Last updated: April 29, 2021. To view as a PDF, see: Assisted Suicide in the States
Opponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have long warned that there is a “slippery slope” from initially limited acceptance of the practice to a broader “right” to take the lives of the sick and elderly. PAS supporters have generally dismissed this claim as alarmist. In my home state of Washington, however, supporters are now embracing the claim, and urging lawmakers to ski down the slope.
*The term “resident” will be used to describe nursing home residents unless otherwise indicated. **All data is accurate as of 10/06/2020 In early 2020 news began circulating that a life-threatening respiratory illness was sweeping across the world and had made its way to the United States. Reactions to the severity of the problem […]
by R. J. Snell, Ph.D. This paper can be viewed as a pdf here: The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Ethics of Triage As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Italy, many hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, necessitating difficult triage decisions that can seem like choosing who lives and who dies. In the United States, already […]
“Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” On June 10 the American Medical Association (AMA) voted 360-190 to affirm Report 2 of The Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA 2), a nuanced report that ultimately favors maintaining […]
The 2019 legislative session has been a busy time for physician-assisted suicide activists and their adversaries. In the first three and a half months of 2019 alone, 20 states introduced legislation to legalize or expand physician-assisted suicide. Of those states, 11 defeated legislation and one, New Jersey, legalized assisted suicide. Nine states still have active […]
Update: HB 5898, the assisted suicide bill, failed to receive enough support to be voted out of committee. CT News Junkie reports: “…Its chief proponent threw in the towel Monday, not allowing the bill to come up for vote in front of the Public Health Committee. ‘We just didn’t have the votes,’ Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, […]
On February 7 legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) advanced through the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. Opponents of bill S 1072 called the hearing a “charade,” noting that of the six “highly influential” physicians slated to speak in opposition to the legislation, only two were able to speak. Further, […]
To view this report as a PDF, see Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Path to Active Euthanasia Introduction Groups promoting the legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have worked for decades to persuade state and national medical societies to support their agenda – or to take a “neutral” stance, widely recognized by advocacy groups and news media […]
Attacks on autonomy and human dignity appear to be intensifying. Autonomy, of course, refers to our ability to act as independent human beings, with an innate and inviolable human dignity inherent to each of us, regardless of our physical, medical, emotional, psychological, or financial circumstances. It seems as if so many, however, are […]
Bobby Schindler is president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Bobby advocates for the medically vulnerable in honor of Terri Schiavo, his sister. A full-time advocate, speaker, and writer, Bobby and the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network have been instrumental in providing resources and […]
On June 27, Noel Conway, a 68-year-old man suffering from a motor neurone disease, was denied assisted suicide by the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal. Conway, who uses a wheel chair and requires assistance for breathing, has reportedly described his illness as making him feel “entombed.” In October 2017, Mr. Conway requested the ability […]
It’s a simple reality that many patients who are not actively dying are nonetheless described as facing “end of life” issues, often simply due to physical or cognitive disabilities. This is particularly true for patients diagnosed with “Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome,” the terminology doctors and patient advocates increasingly prefer to the more pejorative “Persistent Vegetative […]
On March 11, The Washington Post reported on efforts to expand the “right to die” in Oregon and elsewhere. The state has passed legislation to study changing its law on “advance directives,” by which people can decide on future care in case they lose cognitive powers. A key supporter of this effort is Bill […]
CLI Expert: Oregon’s 20-year-old law “tailor-made to conceal, not reveal, abuses” Washington, D.C. – A new report by Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) Associate Scholar Richard Doerflinger, M.A. finds that deaths by assisted suicide in Oregon nearly doubled in just four years, with 143 assisted suicide deaths occurring in 2017 compared to 73 in 2013. […]
To view this Special Report as a PDF, see: Open Letter to the Hawaii Legislature on Assisted Suicide March 4, 2018 Dear Hawaii Legislators: Friends in Hawaii have asked me to comment on the pending bill HB 2739, titled the “Our Care, Our Choice Act.” For three decades I analyzed proposals of […]
In late 2017 Italy’s Senate approved, in a 180-71 vote, legislation permitting patient-created Advance Directives. The law endorses a form of Advance Directives so permissive that Italians won’t simply be able to outline their health care wishes prior to possible incapacity, but in fact will be able to hasten their own deaths. Tragically, this appears […]
To view this paper as a PDF, see: Oregon’s Assisted Suicides: The Up-to-Date Reality in 2017 In February 2018 the Oregon Health Authority released its latest annual report on legally authorized physician-assisted suicides, covering deaths that occurred in 2017. This provides a renewed opportunity to test the constantly repeated claim of the advocacy group […]
To view this paper as a PDF, see: Current Bipartisan Opposition to Assisted Suicide Bipartisan legislation recently emerged in the U.S. House of Representatives against assisted suicide and for real health care for Americans facing illness and the end of life. The concurrent resolution H.Con.Res.80 expresses “the sense of the Congress that assisted suicide… puts […]
To view this paper as a PDF, see: Basic Care, Human Dignity, and Care for Medically Vulnerable Persons Physical and cognitive disability should not mean one’s situation is considered “end of life,” yet too many persons who are not dying are described this way. Earlier this year, Oregon’s state legislature considered a bill that […]
This September, a New York State court unanimously decided on an assisted suicide case and upheld state prohibitions on the practice of physician assisted suicide. The plaintiffs in Myers v Schneiderman consisted of patients with terminal diagnoses who, along with euthanasia-rights advocates, sought the establishment of a “right-to-die” with a physician’s aid by challenging the […]
Proponents of assisted suicide often dismiss “slippery slope” arguments on the grounds that proper safeguards will assure that assisted suicide will not devolve into euthanasia, either voluntary or not.
Earlier this year, for example, Hawaii became another of several states to consider legislation to legalize assisted suicide (the effort failed). During debate, one lawmaker who supported the bill dismissed concerns over where legalization might lead, saying “the inclusion of protections, such as euthanasia bans, helps allay the fears of critics who worry about the ‘slippery slope.’”
“My biggest issue is this: a parent is a caregiver and then of course the health professionals are the caregivers, but you know, who gets the final say?”
-Mother whose daughter has osteosarcoma
This essential question was posed by the mother of one of 33 children living with chronic conditions whose parents I interviewed for my recently published study in the current issue of Health Communication. The study is titled, “You know the medicine, I know my kid”: How parents advocate for their children living with complex chronic conditions.
Just two years ago, Canada’s Supreme Court decriminalized physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia in its decision in Carter v. Canada. Now Canada is considering explicitly creating eligibility for PAS and euthanasia to those suffering from mental illnesses.
A network of psychiatric hospitals operated by the Brothers of Charity in Belgium will now permit its patients to be euthanized, according to a statement from the board controlling the order’s medical institutions.
In short, despite a thoroughly inadequate reporting system designed to cover up rather than reveal problems, Oregon shows exactly the problems that critics predicted: No meaningful protection against coercion, influence by others on patients with depression and dementia, an expansion beyond imminently dying patients, and a road toward active euthanasia.
The leading national organization promoting legalization of physician-assisted suicide, “Compassion & Choices” (formerly known as the Hemlock Society), has distributed a December 2016 “Medical Aid in Dying Fact Sheet” in various state legislatures around the country to persuade them to approve what they call “medical aid in dying.”
For almost a quarter of a century, the American Medical Association (AMA) has opposed physician-assisted suicide, stating that it is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.” In strong language, the AMA has concluded that “permitting physicians to engage in assisted suicide would ultimately cause more harm than good” and that physicians “should not abandon a patient once it is determined that cure is impossible.”
The doctor asked the elderly Dutch woman’s family members to hold her down while the fatal dose was administered. The woman was suffering from dementia and had previously affirmed that she wanted to be euthanized “at the right time,” but the determination of the “right time” for her to die was apparently made without her consultation.
Richard Doerflinger, M.A., is a Public Policy Fellow with the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture and an Adjunct Fellow in Bioethics and Public Policy at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia. In this interview, he discusses physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
Katherine Rafferty, Ph.D., M.A., is a lecturer at Iowa State University and previously worked as a Health Communication Specialist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. In this interview, she discusses some of her research and findings on chronic illnesses and end-of-life care.
In 2002, the Netherlands became the first country in the world to decriminalize euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) for patients who meet criteria set forth by the law, such as that they endure “unbearable” suffering with “no prospect of improvement.” Now the Dutch government is pushing to expand eligibility to include individuals who have no medical condition but nevertheless feel that their life is completed.
On October 5, the District of Columbia’s Committee on Health and Human Services (HHS) will mark-up and vote on a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide. The so-called “Death with Dignity Act” (Bill 21-0038) would permit D.C. adult residents to request and be prescribed drugs to end their lives, if they are given a prognosis of six months or less to live. Last year, during a hearing on the legislation, the Director of D.C.’s Department of Health testified in staunch opposition as the executive witness, stating that the bill would “catapult the District into unchartered territories.”
Voters in Colorado will determine whether physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is to be legalized in their state when they head to the polls this November. California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont are the only other states that have voted to allow physicians to assist their patients in committing suicide. In Montana, the practice was legalized via a state court decision.
Death by euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is primed to take off in Canada, as Parliament passed Bill C-14 on June 17. The law, which establishes guidelines under which Canadians can receive assistance in killing themselves or be euthanized by medical personnel, received royal assent the same day. Royal assent can be supplied by the Governor General and does not denote approval by Buckingham Palace.
According to the annual report from Oregon’s Public Health Division released in February, 132 people died from assisted suicide in the state – more people than in any of the 17 previous years and at a 26 percent increase from 2014.
Most individuals who died by assisted suicide were 65 years or older, either had no insurance or government insurance, and were not currently married.
Already this year, at least eight states are considering bills to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Of these, Colorado, Maryland, and Utah have renamed their bills, formerly titled “Death with Dignity,” as “End of Life Options” bills – the name under which California legalized assisted suicide last October.
Yet, the deceptive title, which now eliminates all reference to death, seemingly seeks both to legalize and normalize assisted suicide as “just another medical option.” A new study published last week in JAMA Psychiatry, however, raises afresh ongoing concerns with assisted suicide, especially as it relates to those with mental illness or distress.
By Jacqueline H. Abernathy, Ph.D.
This academic paper analyzes the significance of a legislator’s position in favor of assisted suicide. In particular, the paper looks at the risk associated with support for legalization of assisted suicide on subsequent re-election. This original work comes from the Department of Social Sciences at Tarleton State University, written by Dr. Jacqueline C. Harvey, a political science faculty member. This version of the paper is a conference abstract that was presented at the 2016 Southern Political Science Association Conference. The full version of the paper will be published in an appropriate academic journal at a later date.
By Jacqueline H. Abernathy, Ph.D.
Switzerland has an unlikely tourist attraction — one where those who visit never leave — and it draws Germans to it more than visitors of any other nationality. It is called the Dignitas clinic, and Germans represent 44 percent of foreign-nationals paying the staff to help them commit suicide. This is more than double the next most common nationality of suicide tourists, British citizens, who constitute 21 percent of the euthanasia clinic’s international business. Death as a paid service is such a concern to the governments of Germany and the United Kingdom that both have recently voted on legislation to ban this practice. Britain overwhelmingly rejected killing outright this September with a vote of 330 to 118 against legalizing assisted suicide.
Germany, however, banned assisted suicide, but only when operated as a business.
By Jacqueline H. Abernathy, Ph.D.
On September 11, California legislators passed Assembly Bill X2-15, the “End of Life Option Act,” which legalizes physician-assisted suicide. If the bill is not vetoed by California Governor Jerry Brown within 31 days of its passage, the bill will become state law. Here is an open letter written to Gov. Brown by CLI Associate Scholar Dr. Jacqueline Harvey, Ph.D. urging him to veto the bill.
September 6 to 12 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and yet almost as if in a cruel joke, the California legislature has fast-tracked a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in the state. Just yesterday, the “End of Life Options Act” (AB X2-15) passed the State Assembly by a vote of 44-35.
The bill now goes to the Senate for a vote this Friday, where it is expected to pass since the Senate passed a very similar assisted suicide bill earlier this year. That earlier bill stalled in committee. If the current measure passes, it would take effect in 31 days unless Governor Jerry Brown vetoes it. The Governor has not made any public statement on the bill, except that he was displeased at its introduction into his special session on healthcare financing.
In mid-August, California lawmakers announced a second attempt to legalize assisted suicide this year. In July, a nearly identical bill, SB 128, died in the Health Committee. The proposed legislation, now revived as Assembly Bill X2-15 (the End of Life Option Act), was introduced during a special legislative session on healthcare financing, which will allow it to bypass the previous committee in which it stalled.
Last Thursday, AB X2-15 which was introduced into the special session by Assemblywoman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton), was referred to the Public Health and Developmental Services Committee. This 13-member committee is a smaller health panel than the original health committee in which the bill died, and does not include the handful of Democratic Members who opposed the assisted suicide bill in July.
On July 10, 2015 the District of Columbia Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on proposed legislation B21-0038, named the “Death with Dignity” bill. Dr. William L. Toffler, M.D., National Director of Physicians for Compassionate Care, and a practicing physician in Oregon for over 35 years, testified in opposition to the bill.
Last Tuesday, a proposed bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California was shelved by its primary authors due to lack of support, and is unlikely to be voted on this year. Senate Bill 128, which passed the state Senate last month, would have allowed doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill individuals seeking to die. Democratic state Senators Bill Monning and Lois Wolk, who authored SB 128, pulled the bill from the Assembly Health Committee’s schedule of hearings Tuesday after it became clear that enough Assembly Members would not support it to allow passage. Among the opposed Members were a number of Latino Democrats, making up about a third of the committee, who spoke against the bill in the context of their personal experiences.
As an increasing number of states weigh the legalization of physician-assisted suicide, a new paper released by the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) elaborates the arguments against the practice, citing numerous abuses. Award-winning author Wesley J. Smith examines how assisted suicide impacts the states and countries where it has been legalized, particularly legalization’s effect on medical ethics and patient care.
In the United States as of March 2015, numerous bills to legalize assisted suicide have been introduced into as many as 25 state legislatures. In this timely paper, Wesley J. Smith examines the subject of assisted suicide and demonstrates how it is distinct from other medical end-of-life care. The paper outlines in detail the abuses of legal assisted suicide and euthanasia laws in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland as well as in the state of Oregon.
In 2011, doctors gave then-22-year-old Matt Davis a 10 percent chance of ever waking up from his coma. After suffering a severe traumatic brain injury from a motorcycle accident, the doctors advised his wife of only seven months, Danielle Josey Davis, to end his life support. “They said if it was them, they’d pull the plug. That’s what they’d want their family to do,” Danielle Davis told ABC News this week. Three months later, her husband awoke from the coma. “I wasn’t going to give up,” she wrote on their GoFundMe page.
The hopeful outcome for the Davis family stands in stark contrast to a troubling new report on end-of-life practices in Belgium, where euthanasia has been legal since 2002. According to the report published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), potentially more than one thousand deaths in Belgium were “hastened [by a doctor] without an explicit request from the patient”…
On February 5, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) voted unanimously to strike down the blanket prohibition on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia that was in place since 1992. The ruling of Carter v. Canada is historic in that it would permit assisted suicide for psychological illness as well as physical.
Because the SCC has not defined or limited what can be considered “psychological suffering,” many are concerned that the subjective language of the ruling makes it vulnerable to abuses. The closest “definition” for either psychological or physical conditions is that it be “grievous and irremediable (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”
In a decision today with serious international ramifications, Canada’s highest court has overturned an absolute ban on assisted suicide/euthanasia and has given Parliament one year to create a “stringently limited, carefully monitored system of exceptions.”
The decision was unanimous, 9-0, and it should be viewed as a victory for advocates of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The ruling chisels away at a prior understanding in Canadian law of human life—even difficult or painful life—as sacred.
In the policy interplay between the United States and Canada, Americans can expect that “right-to-die” activists will be very motivated to use this Canadian case as an example, just as Canadian activists pointed to the “success” of “aid-in-dying” laws in Washington and Oregon.
We deal with it fairly often. Or maybe not that often; perhaps it just seems more frequent than it actually is. But at least a couple times a year, at least for the docs anyway.
Pregnant women get sick. At times very, very sick. And I will forever be grateful for obstetricians and obstetrical nurses, because their job is a difficult one. Very difficult. Often a woman will come in needing an emergency delivery. And sometimes she will need to go to surgery and require general anesthesia. In most cases she will wake up soon afterward, but not always. Sometimes she does not recover. Sometimes she needs the ICU. And there are rare and tragic instances in which she never wakes up again at all.
Last week, an assisted suicide organization in Switzerland named Exit made the news with a report of an anomalous growth in membership. According to its vice president, a record number of about 60 to 100 new applicants poured in daily this July and August, instead of the expected lag in applications due to summer travel. All told, […]
This past Saturday, in Belfast, thousands of pro-life demonstrators from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland joined together to send a clear message to their respective governments that “the lives of the unborn must be protected.”
Late last week, a radical new Euthanasia bill passed into law by a free vote in the National Assembly in Quebec. The bill, Bill 52, passed Thursday afternoon, by a margin of 94 to 22 with no abstentions.
On Thursday, the Belgian Parliament voted by a significant majority to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill children. The new legislation will extend the existing euthanasia law in Belgium which decriminalized the practice for adults. The law will also legalize the practice to adults suffering from dementia.
This past Friday, disability rights and others working against an effort to legalize assisted suicide in the state of Connecticut, were able to successfully stop the momentum of this bill for the rest of the legislative session.
Last week, the Belgian Senate heard evidence from medical experts as legislators began the process of considering an amendment on the country’s euthanasia law to cover minors. Euthanasia has been legal in Belgium since 2002 but has, since its enactment, been prohibited for patients under 18.
By Jacqueline H. Abernathy, Ph.D.
A news article entitled “Now sick babies go on death pathway: Doctor’s haunting testimony reveals how children are put on end-of-life plan” from the UK’s Daily Mail is commanding considerable attention to end-of-life care in Great Britain. The article cites commentary from the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by an anonymous physician, who admits that he/she oversees the intentional starvation and dehydration of infants with disabilities, a practice previously thought to apply only to the elderly and terminally-ill under the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) protocol for palliative care in the U.K.
Earlier this week, the BBC reported on the story of Scott Routley, a Canadian man whom doctors have believed to be in a vegetative state for more than a decade. The report revealed that due to breakthroughs in the field of brain imaging, Scott has been, remarkably, able to communicate with his doctors and convey to […]
The American Nurses Association has released a draft statement which comes out firmly against nurses’ participation in assisted suicide and euthanasia. The American Nurses Association is a national organization which works to advance “the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the rights of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and […]
By Jacqueline H. Abernathy, Ph.D.
The 2012 “Act Relative to Death with Dignity” goes before Massachusetts voters on November 6. Question 2 asks voters directly whether to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) or uphold existing state statutes. If voters affirm Question 2, Massachusetts would join Oregon, Washington and Montana as the only states in the U.S. to allow this practice. Recent studies on PAS in these states paint a revealing portrait of what would transpire in Massachusetts if voters approve Question 2. However, unlike citizens of Oregon who passed the first “Death with Dignity Act” in 1997, voters in Massachusetts have the benefit of learning the actual outcomes of such legislation in other states. Voters now have access to numerous studies that both vindicate opponents’ predictions about PAS and present even more concerns.
As required by law, the Public Health Department of the Oregon Health Authority has released its annual report for 2011 on physician-assisted suicides under that state’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA). The 1997 law required physicians involved in an assisted suicide to file a number of standardized forms, providing information on such particulars as sex, age, race […]
This paper explores the branch of perinatal care called “perinatal hospice,” which provides support to parents and care to newborns who have been given a terminal prenatal diagnosis. Dr. Calhoun finds that allowing parents the chance to be parents, even for a short time, is more positive than encouraging pregnancy termination.