Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Users of Assisted Suicide are Seniors with Money

By Margaret Dore, Esq.

Users of assisteds suicide are "overwhelmingly white, well educated and financially comfortable."[1]  They are also age 65 and older.[2]  In other words, users are older people with money, which would be the middle class and above, a group disproportionately at risk of financial abuse and exploitation.[3]  

In the United States, elder financial abuse costs elders an estimated $2.9 billion per year.[4]  Perpetrators include strangers, family members and friends.[5].  The goals of financial abuse perpetrators are achieved "through deceit, threats, and emotional manipulation of the elder."[6]

The Oregon and Washington assisted suicide acts, and the similar Massachusetts proposal, do not protect users from this abuse. Indeed, the terms of these acts encourage abuse.  These acts allow heirs and other persons who will benefit from an elder's death to actively participate in his or her lethal dose request.[7]  There is also no oversight when the lethal dose is administered, not even a witness is required.[8]  This creates the opportunity for an heir, or someone else who will benefit from the person's death, to administer the lethal dose to that person without his consent.  Even if he struggled, who would know?

For more information about problems with the Massachusetts' proposal, click here and here.  For a "fact check" on the proposal, click here.

* * * [1]  Katie Hafner, "In Ill Doctor, a Surprise Reflection of Who Picks Assisted Suicide," New York Times, August 11, 2012.
[2]  See e.g., the most current official report from Oregon, "Oregon Death with Dignity Act--2011" ("Of the 71 DWDA deaths during 2011, most (69.0%) were aged 65 years or older; the median age was 70 years"), available at http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year14.pdf
[3]  The MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse, "Crimes of Occasion, Desperation, and Predation Against America's Elders," June 2011 (a follow up to MetLife's 2009 "Broken Trust: Elders, Family, and Finances"), available at http://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/mmi-elder-financial-abuse.pdf
[4]  Id., page 2, key findings  
[5]  Id.
[6]  Id., page 3.
[7]  See Memo to Joint Judiciary Committee (regarding Bill H.3884, now ballot measure No. 2), Section III.A.2. ("Someone else is allowed to speak for the patient"), available at http://www.massagainstassistedsuicide.org/p/memo-to-joint-judiciary-committee.html
[8]  See above memo at Section III.A.1("No witnesses at the death").  See also entire proposed Massachusetts Act at http://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/ma-initiative.pdf