Compassion & Choices, the never-say-die advocates for state-sanctioned assisted suicide, seem to have mastered the art of putting lipstick on a pig. Whether or not Americans learn to see through their euphemisms and illogic may well determine the fate of many vulnerable patients, including those in California and 20 other states where the organization now is leading a well-funded lobbying campaign to legalize assisted suicide.
Reincarnated from a previous life when known as The Hemlock Society, the more politically correctly named Compassion & Choices non-profit organization claims on its website, "For over 30 years we have reduced people’s suffering and given them some control in their final days."
That claim would come as news to the medical and pharmaceutical professions, which, unlike non-profit advocacy groups, actually are trained and authorized to prescribe and provide medications that reduce suffering. Pain medication reduces suffering; lethal pills end lives. Suicide does not control death; it merely accelerates it.
The group also claims to "increase patient control and reduce unwanted interventions at the end of life." Yet the law has long recognized patients' right to decline "unwanted interventions at the end of life." Given the pressure by insurers, unscrupulous heirs and uncompassionate caretakers on vulnerable, depressed and disabled patients to end their lives early, assisted suicide represents the real threat of an "unwanted intervention at the end of life."
[As evidenced by polling], government-leery conservatives tend to critically analyze the smooth rhetoric designed to advance state-sanctioned assisted suicide, no doubt wondering:
- Would state governments that sanction suicide block the media, watchdog groups and the public from investigating suspected abuses? (Yes; Oregon's assisted suicide law actually stipulates that "information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public.")
- Might activist judges liberally construe and expand the phrase "pain" to mean not only physical but also psychological pain? (Yes; European courts already have slid down that slippery slope.)
- Could courts determine that disabled persons' inability to ingest lethal pills means that they must be allowed to request euthanasia--thus empowering doctors to actively kill their patients? (Almost certainly, under equal access principles.)
Critical thinkers who have studied history and health may also ask probing questions such as:
- Can physicians help kill their patients and still follow the Hippocratic ethic, which protects patients by forbidding physicians to "give poison to anyone though asked to do so" and insists on, "first, do no harm"? (No.)
- Can physicians can accurately predict a patient's life expectancy? (No.)
- Can physicians treat most patients' pain? (Yes, and updating legislation could ensure even more aggressive pain treatment.)
Anyone with a loved one facing a difficult illness, depression or financial hardship should ask:
- Might family members not learn of their loved one's suicide until after she's dead? (Yes--as under Oregon's law.)
- Could legalizing suicide send suicide-vulnerable young people a deadly message? (How could it not?)
- Would vulnerable patients be pressured into requesting assisted suicide? (Only when heirs, insurance companies and governments could save money with a quick death rather than expensive healthcare ... or when caregivers became tired or uncaring ... or when a depressed patient felt like a burden on others.)
Read rest of commentary...
- Check this list of states considering legalizing assisted suicide.
- If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact email@example.com to get involved.
Physician-Assisted Suicide Fact Sheet
CMDA Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethics Statement
State Legislative Issues