Saying it Once Again: Legal Assisted Suicide Always, Always, Always Destroys Patient Choices at the End of Life

Editor’s note. The following is excerpted from an article appearing on the website of “True Dignity Vermont,” a  grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont.

The Ross Douthat article we posted yesterday [”Dr. Kevorkian’s Victims” which appeared in the New York Times] seems in the light of another day to allow for far too much ambiguity about assisted suicide. Yes, we should be proud that in America at least some murderers like Jack Kevorkian go to jail. But it is important to understand three things Douthat failed to make perfectly clear and may not himself understand:

1. Where assisted suicide is legal in the US (Oregon and Washington), the regulations are not adequate to protect real choice.

2. The regulations proposed in Vermont and elsewhere in the US are the same as those in Oregon and Washington and will not protect real choice.

3. No regulations can ever be written into an assisted law that will adequately protect against pressure that will destroy real choice.

Virtually every article recently published about Jack Kevorkian, including one that has extensive quotes from Barbara Coombs Lee, a leading proponent of legalized assisted suicide, recognizes that he was a wild card. Coombs Lee paints him as the man who showed proponents of assisted suicide what not to do. We will keep our commitment never to link pro-assisted suicide articles on this page, leaving it up to our readers to find this material themselves if they really want it enough to do the work.

What not to do, according to Coombs Lee, is have unregulated assisted suicide. …The problem with Coombs Lee’s assertion is that the so-called regulations in the Oregon and Washington laws do not protect patients. The multiple consents required to get the lethal drugs protect only the prescribing doctors and the pharmacists who dispense the drugs. Once the patient acquires the drugs, he or she has absolutely no protection against being forced to take them. Even if he or she struggled, who would know, since there no witnesses are required at the time the legal drugs are taken?

Even if the laws were amended to require witnesses, no regulation can protect against intentional or unintentional pressures on a person who is sick, elderly, or has disabilities to relieve the state, insurance companies, or exhausted caretakers of the obligation of caring for them. This is perfectly obvious to us, and it is also a fact that in at least two Oregon cases, Medicaid patients whose choice was life extending treatment were denied coverage and instead steered to assisted suicide. The “regulation” of assisted suicide there did not protect them from pressure. Legal assisted suicide, no matter how “regulated,” does not and cannot protect choice. It destroys choice.

That the proponents of assisted suicide have failed to extend legalization beyond Oregon and Washington, despite years and years of lobbying and the expenditure of huge sums of money, is evidence that state representatives, though study of the issue and through the efforts of their constituents to educate them, understand this.

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