Tuesday, April 10, 2012

NY Times: Assisted Suicide: A Recipe for Elder Abuse

April 10, 2012

Margaret DoreMargaret Dore, a lawyer in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal, is the president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit organization opposed to assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide means that one person provides the means or information for another person to commit suicide. In Oregon and Washington, assisted-suicide laws were passed by ballot measures. No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature despite more than 100 attempts.

The Oregon and Washington acts apply to "terminal" patients, defined as patients predicted to have no more than six months to live. Doctor prognoses, however, can be wrong. Moreover, treatment can lead to recovery. My friend Jeanette Hall was adamant that she would "do" Oregon's act. She had been diagnosed with cancer and was given six months to a year to live. Her doctor convinced her to be treated. That was nearly 12 years ago.

Proponents tout assisted suicide as providing "choice" over the timing of one's death. But choice under the Oregon and Washington acts cannot be assured. For example, neither act requires witnesses at the death. Without disinterested witnesses, the opportunity is created for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the patient's death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without his consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?

Assisted suicide is a concept contrary to public safety and a recipe for elder abuse.  Americans are right to be skeptical of these laws.