End of Life

Belgium [Legally] Euthanizes First Minor Child under Law

Two years ago [2014], Belgium’s King Philippe signed into law a bill that allowed children to be euthanized. It was a controversial move, one that drew international condemnation, including from the American Academy of Pediatrics. After the bill became law, any child could legally be euthanized, if they asked to be and had parental consent. Children did not need to be terminally ill; they only needed to be “in great pain” and for there to be no available treatment. Defenders of the bill point to the requirement of approval from both doctors and psychiatrists as proof that the law is fair and safe — yet the entire reason the bill was passed to begin with was because children were already being euthanized in Belgium. Instead of prosecuting the doctors who were illegally euthanizing children, Belgium just made it legal. And Belgium has just [legally] euthanized their first child. The identity of the child has been kept private, but the child was reportedly a 17-year-old suffering from an incurable illness. The nature of the illness has also not been disclosed. A member of Belgium’s federal euthanasia commission confirmed that the child has been killed. Wim Distelmans, a notorious Belgian doctor who euthanized a transgender man and blind twins and arranged an “inspiring” tour of Auschwitz, chairs Belgium’s Federal Control and Evaluation Committee on Euthanasia, and applauds the allowance of euthanasia for children. He admitted that few children had requested euthanasia, but “that does not mean we should deny them the right to a dignified death.” Belgian Senator Jean-Jacques De Gucht also spoke in favor of the child’s euthanasia. “I think...

Assisted Suicide for Psychiatric Patients: Canada and Its Carter v. Canada Law

In February 2015, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Carter v. Canada case to legalize physician-assisted suicide for competent, consenting adults whose suffering is due to a “grievous and irremediable” medical condition and gave Parliament a year to develop a regulatory regime along these “parameters.” The Parliamentary Special Joint Committee on Physician-Assisted “Dying” suggested that the “grievous and irremediable” criterion includes nonterminal medical conditions, including psychiatric disorders. The federal government’s Bill C-14, on the other hand, defined “grievous and irremediable” as an “advanced state of irreversible decline in capabilities” in a person for whom “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable.” The Senate ultimately passed the bill but the controversy about assisted suicide for psychiatric patients is still raging. In a June 21, 2016 commentary in the Canadian Medical Association Journal “Should assisted dying for psychiatric disorders be legalized in Canada?”, authors Scott Y.H. Kim MD PhD and Trudo Lemmens LLM DCL warn against this. As they note: In Belgium and the Netherlands, medical assistance in dying has been provided to people with chronic schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe eating disorders, autism, personality disorders and even prolonged grief. The authors conclude that: Because of the necessarily broad criteria used to regulate assisted dying (in Canada), legalizing the practice for psychiatric conditions will likely place already vulnerable patients at risk of premature death. However, others like Belgium psychiatrist Joris Vandenberghe, MD, PhD disagree: “I think the current approach taken by the Canadian government is a bit too strict because it doesn’t fully recognize the enormous impact that psychiatric disorders can have on patients,” Dr Vandenberghe told Medscape Medical News....

New Mexico Supreme Court Unanimously Upheld New Mexico Assisted Suicide Law

The New Mexico Supreme Court decided in a 5 – 0 decision upheld the New Mexico Court of Appeal decision that assisting a suicide is a crime in New Mexico in Morris v Brandenburg. The Court of Appeal had overturned an activist lower court decision that found a right to assisted suicide in New Mexico. Catherine G. Foster, an attorney with the Alliance Defending Freedom who represented legislators urging the court to uphold the Court of Appeals and find no right to aid in dying, told Scott Sandlin from the Albuquerque Journal that the Supreme Court decision is “a win for all New Mexicans”. “Physician-assisted suicide threatens all people and turns the focus from treatment to terminality and death,” said Foster, executive director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA. “Simply put, diagnoses and prognoses aren’t foolproof, and no law can protect our weakest citizens, particularly the elder and disabled communities, from the coercion and abuse that go hand-in-hand with (it).” The New Mexico Supreme Court decision states (page 2, 3): the State has legitimate interests in (1) protecting the integrity and ethics of the medical profession; (2) protecting vulnerable groups—including the poor, the elderly, and disabled persons—from the risk of subtle coercion and undue influence in end-of-life situations, including pressures associated with the substantial financial burden of end-of-life health care costs; and (3) protecting against voluntary or involuntary euthanasia because if physician aid in dying is a constitutional right, it must be made available to everyone, even when a duly appointed surrogate makes the decision, and even when the patient is unable to self-administer the life-ending medication. Therefore, we decline...

Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates for Females and Males, by Method — National Vital Statistics System, USA, 2000, 2014

QuickStats: Age-Adjusted Suicide Rates for Females and Males, by Method — National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2000 and 2014 From 2000 to 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate increased from 4.0 to 5.8 per 100,000 for females and from 17.7 to 20.7 for males. Suicide rates by specific method (firearm, poisoning, suffocation, or other methods) also increased, with the greatest increase seen for suicides by suffocation. During the 15-year period, the rate of suicide by suffocation more than doubled for females from 0.7 to 1.6 and increased from 3.4 to 5.6 for males. In 2014, among females, suicide by poisoning had the highest rate (1.9), and among males, suicide by firearm had the highest rate (11.4). From 2000 through 2014, there was a statistically significant (p<0.05) increase in the total suicide rate and the rates for each method, for both females and males. [CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality Data. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm , CDC, MMWR, Weekly / May 20, 2016 /...

She Killed Herself in an Assisted Suicide, But Could Brittany Maynard Have Been Saved?

This week, CBS’ 60 Minutes reported that FDA has just granted “breakthrough status” for an innovative treatment for glioblastoma brain cancer that was first reported by 60 Minutes on March 29, 2015. Brittany Maynard had glioblastoma and died by physician-assisted suicide on November 1, 2014, just 5 months before the original TV segment aired. Brittany Maynard was a young newlywed who, with enormous media publicity and the support of the pro physician-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices, announced her intention to commit assisted suicide. She asked for donations to the Brittany Maynard Foundation to raise money to help Compassion and Choices fight for legalization of physician-assisted suicide throughout the US. Using Brittany’s story and foundation, Compassion and Choices was finally successful after years of failed attempts to get a physician-assisted suicide law passed in California. Did Brittany, her doctors, or Compassion and Choices know about the promising clinical trials for glioblastoma reported by 60 Minutes before Brittany took her life with a physician ordered lethal overdose? Although reported medical breakthroughs are frequent and often over-hyped or prove disappointing, information is available at ClinicalTrials.gov, a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world. This service was developed by the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and made available to the public in February 2000. The Decision to Forego Treatment According to Brittany’s own words: After months of research, my family and I reached a heartbreaking conclusion: There is no treatment that would save my life, and the recommended treatments would have destroyed the time I had...

Jahi McMath: Brain Death Cases Similar to Oakland Teen Found Throughout State / Is it Really ‘Brain Death’?

Christopher Dolan, attorney for Jahi McMath’s family, shows an MRI of the 13-year-old Oakland girl during a press conference at Dolan Law Firm in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, Oct. 3, 2014. Dolan showed photos and a pair of videos where McMath moves her foot and arm in response to the voice of her mother, Nailah Winkfield, in a home in New Jersey. She was declared brain-dead in California after tonsil, throat and nose surgeries to relieve her sleep apnea. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group) Related Stories · May 23: California toddler, declared brain-dead, moved out of country May 17: Walnut Creek hospital mistakenly diagnoses woman brain-dead · Dec 23: Jahi McMath: Attorney files another lawsuit on behalf of family Jahi McMath: Family sues in federal court to have brain-dead girl declared alive Oct 23: Judge: Jahi McMath’s family can present evidence that she is alive Jul 29: Exclusive: Jahi McMath’s mother speaks on legal battle over brain death Mar 3: Jahi McMath: Suit filed against Children’s Hospital Oakland Jahi McMath: Oakland girl’s family sues hospital, surgeon Jahi McMath lawsuit: Timeline of events at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland SAN FRANCISCO — Attorney Chris Dolan got a familiar phone call this past month. It was from a Vacaville family who said their 2-year-old son was declared brain-dead. They planned to fight the diagnosis and wanted the San Francisco lawyer’s help. Since taking on the case of Jahi McMath, an Oakland teen declared brain-dead in 2013 following complications from tonsil surgery, Dolan has became an unlikely leader in a growing resistance to the medical establishment’s long-standing determination that the loss...

Changing the Definition of “Death” Turns Human Beings Into Exploitable Commodities: Commentary

Maintaining the concept of “death” as a biological, rather than sociological, event is one of the few remaining impediments to exploiting the most weak and vulnerable among as mere natural resources. If death can be “redefined”–an ongoing project in bioethics–to include the end of the subjective concept of being a “person,” then the unborn–supposedly, not yet persons–and those who through injury or illness have lost the ability to express personhood, can be deemed dead, or perhaps better stated, as good as dead. This issue is discussed regularly above the public’s awareness in bioethics and medical journals. Every once in a while, I think it worth the time to bring some of this advocacy to a wider readership to alert my readers to what the elites in bioethics would like to impose upon us. From, “The Death of Human Beings,” by bioethicist N. Emmerich, in the medical journal, QVM: When we say that someone has died, we do not merely mean that some biological entity no longer functions. We mean that they, some unique mind or person, understood as a cognitive phenomena or psychological entity, has ceased to exist. Despite being a non-biological term, personhood admits of the application of the terms life and death and, furthermore, reflects the ordinary meaning of the terms. We should think very seriously about the consequences of changing death from the irreversible biological end of the integrated organism, to the subjective determination that personhood and relevant “capacities” have ceased. It would mean that clearly alive individuals could become exploitable–or used instrumentally–in the same way as we do biologically dead bodies now. That wouldn’t just...

Assisted Suicide Victory in New York Appellate Division

A clear and welcome ruling came down Tuesday, 3 May 2016, from the NY Appellate Division in an assisted suicide case in which NDY filed a friend-of-the-court brief joined by ten other national and state disability organizations. The Court found no constitutional right to assisted suicide. Below is an excerpt from the 36-page decision: [P]laintiffs rely on two papers that purport to offer empirical evidence that Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, now in effect for over 20 years, has not invited the fears articulated by people opposed to aid-in-dying, such as an adverse impact on vulnerable populations, and the difficulty in distinguishing whether a wish to end one’s life is driven by a desire to control one’s death, clinical depression, or something else. However, even were a finder of fact to determine that aid-in-dying is “workable,” the issue before us transcends mere practical concerns. As the Supreme Court stated in Glucksberg, a state’s interest in preserving human life “is symbolic and aspirational as well as practical” (521 US at 729), favorably quoting the New York State Task Force, which observed: “‘While suicide is no longer prohibited or penalized, the ban against assisted suicide and euthanasia shores up the notion of limits in human relationships. It reflects the gravity with which we view the decision to take one’s own life or the life of another, and our reluctance to encourage or promote these decisions.’ New York Task Force 131-132” (id.). . . . . We find that, even giving plaintiffs the benefit of every reasonable inference, they have not presented sufficient allegations to suggest that the Penal Law has an...

Maggie’s Powerful Story Raises Troubling Questions about How People with Serious Intellectual Disabilities are Diagnosed and Cared For

Comment: I saw this myself even in the early 1970s (before “vegetable” became a diagnosis) when some of our trauma and coma patients unexpectedly started to respond when we talked to and cared for them as if they were fully awake. We were surprised and humbled when we saw some of these so-called “hopeless” patients recover and resume their lives. N. Valko RN, 1 May 2016] As the tragedy of Terri Schindler Schiavo’s death by starvation illustrates, euthanasia advocates have long been quick to dismiss as worthless the lives of those people with intellectual and physical disabilities they label with the dehumanizing term “vegetative.” Even as Canada explicitly targets people with disabilities through legalized active euthanasia; and the campaign to expand the states in which assisted suicide is legal in the U.S. continues, iconoclastic physicians are instead demonstrating the potential to communicate with and provide assistive technology and rehabilitative services to this stigmatized population. In an article from the May 6, 2016, Newsweek Magazine entitled, “Given the right stimuli, brain activity in patients in persistent vegetative states can bear similarity to non-injured people,” author Don Heupel highlights two separate but related issues related to serious brain injuries. The first problem is the large number of patients whose brain injuries are misdiagnosed. The second is that these improper diagnoses lead to patients who could greatly benefit from therapies being denied these services on the mistaken basis that they would not work. What is worse, countless numbers of these patient’s erroneous diagnoses have meant an early death. The Newsweek article focuses on Maggie Worthen, a young woman who was set to...

Company Gets Approval for Trial of Drug That Could Reverse “Brain Death” in Patients

There is only one type of death but two means of declaring a person “dead.” One is the irreversible cessation of cardio/pulmonary function. Let’s call that “heart death.” The other is total brain failure, or the irreversible cessation of the brain–and all of its constituent–parts as a brain. This is popularly known as “brain death.” Neither means that all the cells in the brain or body are dead. The key question is irreversible cessation of essential function. Now, the CEO of a company called Bioquark writes me to tell me that his company has been given the go-ahead by a university ethics committee to commence “the first trial of its kind and a step towards the reversal of death.” From the NIH summary: This is the proof of concept study with multi-modality approach (using intra-thecal bioactive peptides, stem cells, laser and transcranial IV laser and Median Nerve stimulation as adjuvants) in cases of brain death due to traumatic brain injury having diffuse axonal injury to document possibility of reversal of brain death (BD). Here is the company press release – http://www.prweb.com/releases/2016/04/prweb13354004.htm A few points. First, this will apparently take place in India, not at Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, or Oxford. I don’t mean that as an insult, but I tend to be more skeptical of studies done in more remote places. Second, it seems more likely that these interventions, if successful, will not “reverse death,” but potentially treat profound brain injury. Finally, if brain death becomes truly reversible, if neurons that no longer function as a brain are restored to brain (not mere cellular) functionality, death by neurological criteria...

Frisco Hospice Owner Urged Nurses to Overdose Patients So They Would Die Quicker, FBI Says

Comment: Note this quote from the article: “‘Aggregator cap’. Health care providers do not necessarily make more money for longer hospice stays. That’s because hospices are subject to an ‘aggregator cap’, which limits Medicare and Medicaid payments based on the yearly average hospice stay, the FBI said. If patients live longer than that, the provider can be forced to pay back part of their payments to the government. ‘Hence, hospice providers have an incentive to enroll patients whose hospice stays will be short relative to the cap’, an agent wrote in the affidavit.” [N. Valko RN, 17 May 2016] The owner of a Frisco medical company regularly directed nurses to overdose hospice patients with drugs such as morphine to speed up their deaths and maximize profits and sent text messages like, “You need to make this patient go bye-bye,” an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit for a search warrant obtained by NBC 5. The executive, Brad Harris, founded the company, Novus Health Care Services Inc., in July 2012, according to state records. Novus’ office is on Dallas Parkway in Frisco. No charges have been filed against Novus or Harris. Harris, 34, did not return messages left with a receptionist and at his Frisco home. Harris, an accountant, told a nurse to overdose three patients and directed another employee to increase a patient’s medication to four times the maximum allowed, the FBI said. In the first case, the employee refused to follow the alleged instructions, the agent wrote in the affidavit. The document does not say whether the other three patients were actually harmed. Harris also told other health...

On Matters of Life and Death, Where Are We Now?

Taking Stock: Where Are We Now? Taking stock of where one is at the beginning of a new project or a new year is a good idea. Where we are in the entire realm of bioethics is beyond the scope of a mere e-newsletter, but what follows are some landmarks discernible in January 2016 . . . On Matters of Life and Death Physician-Assisted Suicide On Sunday, 24 January, John Jay Hooker, Tennessee lawyer, politician, and activist, died. Mr. Hooker had most recently championed “death with dignity” –physician-assisted suicide — in a proposed bill and in the courts. By the time of his death, neither the legislature nor the courts had provided him the decision he had recently pursued. The “Death with Dignity” bill was sponsored in the Tennessee legislature by Rep. Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley. Quoted in The Tennessean, Mr. Fitzhugh honored his friend, Mr. Hooker, with these words: “I found his love for our great state to be enormous, and unceasing. Until his last breath, he was committed to helping others, fighting for what he believed to be right, and being a voice for the voiceless.” There seems no lack of dignity in Mr. Hooker’s death. We are HERE: Mr. Hooker died while his case was pending before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, and that case awaits another plaintiff — http://wjhl.com/2016/01/25/die-with-dignity-bill-still-on-file-after-john-jay-hookers-death/ Three-Parent Embryos These were approved in the UK in (February) 2015 — http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/289706.php?trendmd-shared=0 We are HERE: In the U.S., the matter is under consideration by the FDA, and we await their decision. CRISPR How it works: “Everything You Need to Know About CRISPR, the New Tool that...

Canada: Supreme Court Gives Extension for Euthanasia Law; Quebec Registers First Death

Canada’s Supreme Court has given the government a four month extension to pass legislation on euthanasia, after which there will be no legal protections. The court struck down a law banning euthanasia last February in the case of Carter v. Canada. The ruling gave the parliament 12 months to pass a law codifying a national euthanasia policy, which it has yet to do. At the same time, Quebec’s government has announced it will not prosecute doctors who implement the euthanasia policy and this month the first death by assisted suicide was registered at a medical facility. Dr Paul Saba, who legally challenged the government’s euthanasia law, noted that the World Medical Association has clearly said that “euthanasia is not a medical act” and pointed out that “the criteria the government is using to permit euthanasia is full of holes”. Amy Hasbrouck with the disabilities rights group Not Dead Yet raised concerns that safeguards are not being put in place to protect patients from coercion, including little home support, palliative care, and other services. “If the person wants to die at home but ends up in a prison-like facility with one bath a week and everyone getting up at the same time, this is not a dignified way to live. A person may choose euthanasia because social services are not enough. This is coercive,” stated Hasbrouck. [PNCI, Newsletter, Volume 10, No 1, January 29,...

Canadian Disaster: The Biggest Under-Reported Story in US Media — Euthanasia Enters Canada

This February [2015], The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the Canadian law that makes it illegal for anyone to help people end their own lives should be amended to allow doctors to help in specific situations. The court gave federal and provincial governments 12 months to craft legislation to respond to the ruling. Until then; the ban on doctor-assisted suicide stands. If the government doesn’t write a new law, the court’s exemption for physicians will stand. Against this ghastly situation, however, there are welcome voices of opposition. In a September article in the Canadian press titled “Quebec’s split over euthanasia a warning for Canada”, reporter Allan Woods writes: But with time running out before Dec. 10 — the date that patients can begin requesting the procedure — hospitals and health-care providers are scrambling to draw up policies and find the staff who will carry out those patients’ wishes. If that wasn’t tough enough, some of those who might be expected to lead the change — palliative care physicians and hospice administrators — have let it be known that they are instead digging trenches for the battle. “The vocation of a palliative care hospice is to provide care, and that doesn’t include medical aid in dying,” said Élise Rheault, director of Maison Albatros Trois-Rivières. Mr. Woods goes on to write that: Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, a doctor himself, says the refusal by the province’s hospices to provide the procedure amounts to “administrative fundamentalism” and he accused palliative care doctors — who have a right under the law to conscientious objection — of acting like hospital owners rather...

Belgian Doctors Call for End to Euthanasia for Mental Suffering

[Comment: Once again, evil cannot limit itself. N. Valko RN, 10 Dec 2015] Dr Marc Van Hoey with Simona de Moor shortly before she was euthanised. (SBS Dateline) Comment: On December 8, a group of psychiatrists, psychologists, philosophers and others published a letter in De Morgen, a Flemish newspaper, asking the government to remove the option for euthanasia on the basis of psychological suffering alone. Here is an English translation from the blog of Trudo Lemmens, Professor and Scholl Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. * * * * * For the first time since the adoption of the law in 2002, a decision to allow euthanasia –the De Moor/Van Hoey case – has been challenged by the euthanasia evaluation committee and forwarded to the public prosecutor. The Australian broadcaster SBS made a documentary about this case and about the conversations between the patient and doctor. Another poignant video report was recently made public by The Economist, involving a 24-year-old young woman from Bruges, who ultimately declined the execution of her euthanasia request, which had been granted, and which was based on psychological distress. (24 and Ready to Die). In our open letter in the Artsenkrant (September 2015) we have already drawn attention to the legal uncertainty for the doctor in cases of euthanasia based on purely psychological suffering. In this opinion piece we draw attention to its particularly problematic character, in particular the impossibility of objectifying the hopelessness of psychological suffering. One would expect that the untreatable nature of this condition is supported by, for example, indications of an organic...

Nation of Colombia Attorney General Will Propose Legalizing Abortion on Demand Up to 12 Weeks

The attorney general of Colombia is proposing a radical new bill to legalize first-trimester abortion on demand in the South American nation. Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre made the announcement Tuesday during a pro-abortion conference, according to the Stabroek News. “The proposal is to unconditionally allow abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. What happens starting with the 12th week? The grounds for (getting) permission for abortion would enter into force,” Montealegre said. Currently, the country only allows abortions in cases of rape, the life and health of the mother and fetal deformity, according to the report. The new bill would allow abortions for any reason in the first trimester, and even later in cases of rape, the life and health of the mother and fetal deformity. The attorney general claims the proposal will help reduce the number of illegal abortions performed in Colombia that are “risky for the women.” One study estimated that approximately 300,000 illegal abortions occur every year in Colombia. However, Dr. Michael New, a political science professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, said abortion groups have greatly overestimated the number of illegal abortions in Colombia. Local news outlets predict that the abortion bill will face strong opposition from pro-life lawmakers and the Catholic Church. Montealegre also admitted that it would be difficult to pass his abortion bill. Abortion advocates have long been pushing their agenda in socially conservative South American countries like Colombia. In 2014, abortion advocates tried to slip an expansion of abortion into a bill to help victims of sexual violence. However, Colombia’s Senate removed the pro-abortion measure from the bill, unanimously voting...

Support for Physician-Assisted Suicide Requires a Blind Eye to Past, Present, and Future Abuses

I’ve known bioethicist Art Caplan for over 25 years. During that time span we have corresponded back and forth many, many times. He held positions that differ from National Right to Life’s from mildly different to radically, whole-heartedly different. Why do I mention this? For two reasons. Caplan is, as he is often described, the “go-to” bioethicist whenever the media is looking for an “objective” perspective on just about every imaginable issue that falls under the (self-appointed) purview of bioethicists. And second, because Caplan is seemingly omnipresent–on network and cable television, on op-ed pages, in news stories, and more specialized academic publications–his views carry weight. There was never any doubt that Caplan would eventually go public with what clearly (to anyone reading his comments) was his private opinion: that whatever reasons there were previously to oppose legalizing physician-assisted suicide, experience had taught us (or at least Caplan) that legalizing assisted suicide would not unleash an anti-life genii which would wreak widespread havoc. We’ve reposted elsewhere a terrific response from Nancy Valko which offers a fine-grained critique of the bottomless well of dubious assumptions Caplan relies on. She honed in on the very shaky unpinning of Caplan’s argument in “More States Approve Physician-Assisted Dying. Is This Risky?“: that there is no slippery slope. Or, to more accurate, there hasn’t been in the United States and won’t be in the future. No one, including Caplan, could miss that the euthanasia/assisted suicide train had long since left the only-when-the-patient-is-terminal-and-in-pain station. It is running wildly off track. So what is Caplan’s answer to his own recitation of the grim facts–people are not terminally...

Talking Points: Assisted Suicide & Euthanasia

In 2015, in Oregon, a bill has been introduced to expand the definition of ‘terminal disease’ in the state’s doctor-prescribed suicide law. Under the proposal, a patient who is predicted to die within one year — rather than the current six months prognosis — would be eligible to receive the lethal dose of drugs. However, there seems little reason for assisted-suicide advocates to expand that definition since, according to Oregon’s latest official report, some patients who died in 2014 under the state’s law had received the deadly overdose of drugs in one of the two previous years. As one doctor who prescribes assisted suicide admitted several years ago, there’s really no way of knowing whether a particular patient will die within six months or even a year. The life expectancy requirement in the bill was placed there just to assure its passage. Already, four of the doctor-prescribed suicide bills introduced this year have failed: CA, NY, New Mexico, & TN. In California on 27 July 2015, San Diego Superior Court Judge Pollack threw out a challenge to the state law banning assisted suicide. In his ruling, Pollack said that assisted suicide is quicker and less expensive than treatment and that there is a great potential for abuse. In addition, he said that doctor-prescribed suicide creates the possible scenario of someone taking his own life based upon an erroneous diagnosis of a terminal illness. “After all,” Pollack wrote, “doctors are not infallible.” These failures of doctor-prescribed suicide bills are due to greater awareness of how very dangerous doctor-prescribed suicide really is. Now is the time to help others know what...

Doctor-Prescribed Suicide is Never the Answer: Commentary

The disability community has been trying to have honest end-of-life conversations for years. After all, we’re the real experts on the front lines of the health care system that serves (and, sadly, often underserves) dying people. But for the most part, the megaphone has remained firmly within the grasp of the assisted suicide lobby and its well-intended supporters, many of whom haven’t been exposed to complete information about the construction, operation and consequence of such laws. Last week, California became the fourth state to legalize assisted suicide, providing the state’s imprimatur on the notion that some suicidal people warrant suicide prevention services and some warrant help getting the job done. Tragically, the only difference between those two groups is their health status or disability. Those already at increased vulnerability for depression and abuse because of their failing health are the ones who get state-sanctioned assistance with their suicidal ideations. Soon after Brittany Maynard became the long-awaited face of the right-to-die movement, the assisted suicide lobby (Compassion & Choices) enjoyed a fresh crop of proposed bills in sixteen states, with twelve defeats, California passing last week, and three others still pending. Although this whole ugly business seems far more palatable when such noble aims as pain mitigation are headlined, 17 years of available data do not bear out this claim. Oregon’s annual report data demonstrate that it’s social factors that propel assisted suicide requests. According to one study, “loss of autonomy” (92 percent), “less able to engage in activities” (89 percent), “loss of dignity” (80 percent), “loss of control of bodily functions” (50 percent), and “feelings of being a burden”...

Misdiagnosis

A report issued by the federal Institute of Medicine (IOM) said that most people will receive at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis in their lifetimes that could result in missed treatments or even death. “Diagnostic errors persist throughout all settings of care and continue to harm an unacceptable number of patients,” researchers wrote. These errors contribute to approximately 10% of patient deaths and are, according to the report, “the leading type of paid malpractice claims and are almost twice as likely to have resulted in the patient’s death compared to other claims.” What the report didn’t say, however, is that, in states where doctor-prescribed suicide is legal, a misdiagnosis of terminal illness can cause a patient to request and take legally prescribed lethal drugs and die, when the patient was not terminally ill in the first place. The IOM report said that improving the diagnostic process is imperative, otherwise “diagnostic errors will likely worsen as the delivery of health care and the diagnostic process continue to increase in complexity.” [IOM, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” 9/15] [ http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/update-078-volume-29-number-4-2015-4/...