I have been a professor of family medicine and a practicing physician in Oregon for more than 30 years. I write to provide some insight on the issue of assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon, and which has been proposed for legalization in Connecticut (raised bill No. 5326).
Our law applies to “terminal” patients who are predicted to have less than six months to live. In practice, this idea of “terminal” has recently become stretched to include people with chronic conditions, such as “chronic lower respiratory disease” and “diabetes”. Persons with these conditions are considered terminal if they are dependent on their medications, such as insulin, to live. They are unlikely die in less than six months unless they don’t receive their medications. Such persons, with treatment, could otherwise have years or even decades to live.
This illustrates a great problem with our law — it encourages people with years to live, to throw away their lives.
I am also concerned that by starting to label people with chronic conditions “terminal,” there will be an excuse to deny such persons appropriate medical treatment to allow them to continue to live healthy and productive lives.
These factors are something for your legislators to consider. Do you want this to happen to you or your family? Furthermore, in my practice I have had many patients ask about assisted-suicide. In each case, I have offered care and treatment but declined to provide assisted suicide. In one case, the man’s response was “Thank you.”
To read a commentary on the most recent Oregon government assisted-suicide report, which lists chronic conditions as the “underlying illness” justifying assisted suicide, please go here: http://www.noassistedsuicideconnecticut.org/2014/02/oregons-new-assisted-suicide-report.html
To read about some of my cases in Oregon, please go here: http://www.choiceillusion.org/p/what-people-mean_25.html
I hope that Connecticut does not repeat Oregon’s mistake.
William L. Toffler