By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA*
Assisted Suicide and HL Bill 6
HL Bill 6, like the Oregon and Washington laws on which it is based, applies to patients who have been given 6 months or less to live. Such patients may, in fact, have years to live. One reason is that doctors’ predictions of life expectancy can be wrong. See Margaret Dore, “Falconer Assisted Suicide Bill: ‘Eligible’ Patients May Have Years, Even Decades, to Live,” Choice is an Illusion, July 12, 2014.
Bishop Tutu’s Remarks
I don't know Bishop Tutu, but I have seen him speak and I admire him very much. He has now, however, voiced his support for “assisted dying”, with reference to the death of Nelson Mandela.
According to a New Zealand blog post, Bishop Tutu may be confusing the withdrawal of life support with assisted suicide. The post says in part:
Interesting that Bishop Tutu now admits publicly that Mandela was indeed on life support and that “prolonging his life was an affront to his dignity”, according to an article on BBC.com.Switching off life support is, regardless, different from euthanasia and assisted suicide. When life support is switched off the patient doesn't necessarily die. Consider, for example, this case from Washington State reported in the Seattle Weekly:
[I]nstead of dying as expected, the man slowly began to get better. [Dr. J. Randall Curtis] doesn't know exactly why, but guesses that for that patient, "being off the ventilator was probably better than being on it. He was more comfortable, less stressed." Curtis says the man lived for at least a year afterwards.With assisted suicide and euthanasia, the patient deliberately kills himself or is killed by another person. See e.g., AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.21 (defining euthanasia). Moreover, that patient could have had years to live.
The Blame is on us
Perhaps the blame for the confusion should be placed on us and the language of the debate in which both sides have been referring to assisted suicide and euthanasia as “assisted dying.” Perhaps it’s time for those of us who oppose legalization to call a spade a spade and eliminate the misleading term, “assisted dying” from our vocabulary. Our very lives may depend on it.
* Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State USA where assisted suicide is legal. She is also President of Choice is an Illusion, a human rights organization opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. Her publications include Margaret K. Dore, "''Death with Dignity': What Do We Advise Our Clients?," King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009 (regarding Washington's law). See also Margaret Dore, Quick Facts About Assisted Suicide, at http://www.choiceillusion.org/2013/11/quick-facts-about-assisted-suicide_11.html