By Rita L. Marker
Imagine that you are standing in line at the supermarket pharmacy. As you wait to pick up your prescription, you overhear the pharmacist explaining to the person ahead of you. "To induce death, mix all of this into a sweet beverage and drink it very quickly."
Unimaginable? Unfortunately, no -- that type of prescription is currently permitted in
Spearheaded by the euphemistically named Compassion & Choices (formerly known as the Hemlock Society), steps are being taken to achieve a win in
To achieve their goal, they've taken a number of steps. Recognizing that all social engineering is preceded by verbal engineering, they've sanitized the language. The "s-word" is out. No longer do proponents refer to "physician-assisted suicide." Now it's called "physician-assisted death," "aid-in-dying," or "death with dignity." They've formed a political action committee called It's My Decision. They've started raising funds for the anticipated multi-million dollar campaign, and they've selected a primary spokesperson.
For a number of reasons, former two-term governor Booth Gardner was tapped to be the public face of the campaign. Although he has been out of office for over a decade, he remains exceptionally popular in the state.
Assisted-suicide advocates plan to lull the public into accepting their proposal by claiming that it will give terminally ill adults the right to request "medication to end suffering" in accord with strict safeguards. They further claim that the practice will require careful reporting to add transparency and prevent abuse.
Assisted-suicide activists use questionable studies about
For example, a recent study by
In addition, assisted-suicide advocates claim that official reports on
All information in official reports is provided by those who carry out assisted suicide.
Several years ago, members of a British House of Lords committee traveled to
Melvin Kohn, a lead author of several official reports, said that information received from doctors "is a self-report, if you will, of the physician involved." Furthermore, there are no penalties for non-reporting.
Complications or other problems associated with assisted suicide are almost impossible to determine.
When Katrina Hedberg M.D., who also has headed up the formulation of official reports, was asked by the British Committee if there is a systematic way of finding out and recording complications, she said, "Not other than asking physicians." Yet even if they were inclined to report complications, physicians may not be aware of them, since "afterthey write the prescription, the physician may not keep track of the patient."
According to the last official report, physicians who prescribed the drugs for assisted suicide were present at only 21.5 percent of reported deaths. Therefore, any information they provide might come from secondhand accounts or be based on guesswork.
The state does not have any authority to verify whether reports made by assisted-suicide providers are accurate or complete. It also does not have the authority or the funding to track complications or abuse.
Dr. Hedberg told the British Committee, "Not only do we not have the resources to do it, but we do not have any legal authority to insert ourselves."
Records used in annual reports are destroyed.
According to Dr. Hedberg, "After we issue the annual report, we destroy the records." Therefore, there is no way to reexamine information if questions or concerns about an assisted-suicide death arise later.
Assisted-suicide advocates also claim that
The waiting period between requests for assisted suicide and provision of the lethal prescription is based on political strategy, not patient protection.
In my view, the
The required life expectancy of six months or less is both disingenuous and disregarded.
Admittedly, we are inaccurate in prognosticating the time of death under those circumstances. We can easily be 100 percent off, but I do not think that is a problem. If we say a patient has six months to live and we are off by 100 percent and it is really three months or even twelve months, I do not think the patient is harmed in any way . . . .
A doctor can help a mentally ill or depressed patient commit suicide.
Assisted-suicide proponents also claim that the practice would never be expanded to anyone who is not terminally ill. However, in unguarded moments, they have often acknowledged that
To their dismay,
Gardner wants a law that would permit lethal prescriptions for people whose suffering is unbearable, a standard that can seem no standard at all; a standard that prevails in the Netherlands, the Western nation that has been boldest about legalizing aid in dying; a standard that elevates subjective experience over objective appraisal and that could engage the government and the medical profession in the administration of widespread suicide . . . .
Compassion & Choices and other activists are none too happy about
Their success in achieving that goal will depend on keeping people ignorant of their agenda. Their failure depends upon an informed, concerned, and involved public.
Tempted to dismiss what's happening in
· A doctor can prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to a person whose family may be totally unaware that a loved one is contemplating assisted suicide.
· Schools can inform students that assisted suicide is an acceptable medical choice.
· Medical students can be taught how to prescribe deadly drugs for patients to use to commit suicide.
· Insurance companies and state Medicaid can pay for assisted suicide, while denying coverage for wanted and needed medical care.
All of that is permitted in
No matter where we live, we are all Washingtonians next year.
Rita L. Marker is an attorney and executive director of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide.
Printed with permission from Inside Catholic.