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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
This map of the United States show which states have passed laws legalizing assisted suicide or in which bills have been introduced. Current as of March 2015.
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.
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, […]
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.
On Monday night, state lawmakers in Vermont approved an assisted suicide bill which will make Vermont the fourth state in the union to legalize assisted suicide. Governor Peter Shumlin (D) has said that he plans on signing the bill within a week. Governor Shumlin has stated that legalizing assisted suicide “gives Vermonters who are suffering […]
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.
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 […]
Download PDF here: Massachusetts’ Death with Dignity Initiative_Questions Regarding Question 2 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 […]
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 […]