Washington Post editorial recycles physician-assisted suicide talking points

By Dave Andrusko

assistedsuicide51I’ve read the Washington Post ever since my wife and I arrived in the D.C. metropolitan area in 1981. As these things go—what would/should you expect from a pillar of the “mainstream media”?—the editorial page can be and often is sober, fair-minded, and thoughtful.

That’s not the case with our issues, alas, as an editorial that ran Monday illustrated.

A humane way to end life” pushes all the usual buttons, skips by all the inconvenient truths, and blurs all the important distinctions in the rush to reach the predetermined conclusion:

Death with dignity laws need to be carefully thought out, written and monitored. Oregon and the states that followed its example show that such care is possible. We hope the rest of the nation catches up with this humane option for life’s end.

For example, I understand the edit page is taking a position which necessarily includes giving opponents short-shrift. So I suppose it shouldn’t annoy me (although it does) that the three articles that are linked at the editorial milk the tragedy of the assisted suicide of Brittany Maynard for all it’s worth and offer the case for legalizing assisted suicide in nearby Maryland.

Opposition is summarized in one paragraph after which we are told that there is no—repeat NO—examples of physician-assisted suicide being abused. “The issue stirs strong emotions,” the Post concedes.

Some opponents, including the Catholic Church, cite religious or moral grounds, seeing any form of assisted dying as anathema to teachings that life is never to be taken. Some physicians believe the practice violates their oath only to heal, and some disability rights activists fear that they will be vulnerable to abuses. Others warn of a slippery slope to euthanasia.

Of course, the Post leads with the Catholic Church, the better to hint that opponents can be dismissed because they base their opposition on “religious” grounds. But there is a reason that the tsunami of initiatives that have swept in following Ms. Maynard’s death has not overcome resistance in any number of states which the Post barely acknowledges.

Staving off physician-assisted suicide is a result of a broad-based coalition whose most important players are the Disability Rights activists and virtually all the state medical organizations. Their importance cannot be overstated.

What about the blithe assurance that Oregon’s state data shows that “there have been no reports of coerced or wrongly qualified assisted deaths”? Talking about not seeing the forest for the trees.

As NRLC’s Jennifer Popik, JD, eloquently explained yesterday:

(1)There is nothing in existing Oregon, Washington, or Vermont law that requires doctors to refer patients for evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist to screen for depression or mental illness. There is also no such requirement in any current proposal in any state.

(2) The doctors can make a referral, but nearly never do.

(3) According to state-issued reports in Oregon, we know that people receive lethal prescriptions and long outlive their prognosis. Further, the law has been made to apply to people whom no one would think of as terminally ill such as diabetics, those with HIV, or those with hepatitis simply because they would die without treatment in six months—even though with treatment they could live much longer, even indefinitely.

(4) These laws rely on doctors to self-report. However, there is no penalty if they do not report statistics and complications. Furthermore, doctors are not held to the ordinary standard of medical malpractice in implementing the “safeguards,” but a far lower one, the death certificate is actually falsified so that it lists some other condition, not suicide, as the cause of death.

If I were a proponent of physician-assisted suicide, I would appreciate the Post’s approval. Not just because it supports my position but because it breathes fresh life into the stale death-promoting myths of Compassion and Choices, formerly (and more candidly) known as the Hemlock Society.

We will continue to show the real face of physician-assisted suicide, including its underlying ethos that drives its crusade: that anyone for any reason at virtually any age must have the “right” to “self-determination”—the right to be “assisted” to die.