Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Cost of Physician-Assisted Suicide.

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA*
Updated November 25, 2015 

It is often assumed that legalizing physician-assisted suicide will save states money. Don’t be so sure. In Oregon, legalization is correlated with an increase in other suicides, the cost of which is "enormous."

More Suicide

Oregon's law legalizing physician-assisted suicide went into effect “in late 1997.”[1] Since then, Oregon has reported a small, but steadily rising number of deaths under the law.[2]

Oregon's other suicides, which are tracked separately, have also increased. Indeed, by 2000, Oregon's suicide rate for other suicides was "increasing significantly."[2] By 2007, Oregon's suicide rate for other suicides was 35% above the national average.[3] By 2010, Oregon's suicide rate for other suicides was 41% above the national average.[4]

The Financial Cost

The financial cost of these other suicides (and suicide attempts) is huge for Oregon, a smaller population state. The Oregon Health Authority states:
The cost of suicide is enormous. In 2010 alone, self-inflicted injury hospitalization charges exceeded 41 million dollars; and the estimate of total lifetime cost of suicide in Oregon was over 680 million dollars. (Footnotes omitted).[5]

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

People With Disabilities Are a High Risk Group for Suicide; Legal Assisted Suicide Discussed as a Contributing Factor.

By Margaret Dore

Thank you Stephen Mendelsohn, of Second Thoughts Connecticut, for providing this important
Stephen Mendelsohn

The State of Connecticut Suicide Prevention Plan for 2020 includes people with disabilities and chronic health conditions as a high-risk group (similar to military veterans or the LGBT community) and discusses assisted suicide as a possible contributing factor to the problem. The Plan states:
Until recently, the [Connecticut Suicide Advisory Board] CTSAB was considering assisted suicide of the terminally ill as a separate issue from suicide prevention. The active disability community in Connecticut, however, has been vocal on the need for suicide prevention services for people with disabilities. 
The Plan goes on:
There may be unintended consequences of assisted suicide legislation on people with disabilities. Peace (2012) writes that "Many assume that disability is a fate worse than death. So we admire people with a disability who want to die, and we shake our collective heads in confusion when they want to live.” People with disabilities have a right to responsive suicide prevention services. The CTSAB intends to continue to explore the needs of the disability community for such services. (Emphasis added).
Plan, p. 44.

The Plan concludes with "Targeted Recommendations,"which push back against the idea of rational suicide for people with disabilities:
• Do not "assume" suicide is a "rational" response to disability.
• Treat mental health conditions as aggressively as with a person without disability. (Emphasis added)

German Jewry applauds defeat of liberalized assisted suicide laws


November 10, 2015 6:20am

(JTA) Assisted suicide laws will not be liberalized in Germany, a move that the country's Jewish community had vigorously opposed.

The Bundestag decided not to legalize organizations that promote or offer assisted suicide and to continue barring doctors from offering such assistance as a regular medical service.

Lawmakers instead toughened the national stance against commercialized assisted suicide. Such acts will now be punished with up to three years in jail, even if a doctor claims to have acted to relieve a patient's suffering. The bill was passed on Friday with 360 out of 602 votes, Reuters reported.

Dr. Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told the Bayerischen Rundfunk broadcasting company that he was "relieved" at the decision on easing assisted suicide laws "after a long, serious, and sometimes emotional debate."

Euthanasia is a particularly sensitive topic in Germany, as an estimated 200,000 people, most of them mentally and physically disabled, were murdered in the Nazi "euthanasia" program, their lives considered "unworthy" by the state.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Persons Living with HIV/AIDS: Is This What You Want?

By Margaret Dore, Esq

This is an updated version of an article I wrote three years ago in response to HIV/AIDS groups that had endorsed Ballot Question 2, seeking to legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts. The ballot question failed, but there is now a similar proposal pending in the Massachusetts legislature (H.1991). I suggest that these groups and persons living with HIV/AIDS give the new proposal a close look. 

1.  "Terminal" does not mean dying. 

H.1991 applies to persons with a "terminal illness," defined in terms of less than six months to live with or without treatment.[1] 

In the 1980's, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Today, we have people living with HIV/AIDS, who do well, but who are dependent on treatment to live. Some of these persons are "terminal" under H.1991, i.e., if, without treatment, they "can reasonably be expected to die within 6 months."[2] 

2.  The significance of a terminal label.

Once a person is labeled "terminal," an easy justification can be made that his or her treatment should be denied in favor of someone more deserving. In Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal, "terminal" patients have not only been denied treatment, they have been offered assisted suicide instead. In a 2012 affidavit, Oregon doctor Kenneth Stevens put it this way:
Under the Oregon Health Plan [Medicaid], there is . . .  a financial incentive towards suicide because the Plan will not necessarily pay for a patient’s treatment. For example, patients with cancer are denied treatment if they have a "less than [two years] median survival with treatment" and fit other criteria. . . . 
All such persons . . .  will . . . be denied treatment. Their suicides under Oregon’s assisted suicide act will be covered."[3]
He also noted that some persons denied treatment as "terminal" would, if treated, in fact have years, even decades, to live. He stated: 
Some of the patients living longer than two years will likely live far longer than two years, as much as five, ten or twenty years depending on the type of cancer. This is because there are always some people who beat the odds.[4]