Editor’s note. This post appeared Maryland Against Assisted Suicide.
· Requiring a professional mental health evaluation would “unnecessarily slow down” patient’s access to physician assisted suicide.
· Terminal patients are in pain so this bill must be passed.
· [Including] too many regulatory requirements [in this bill] would make it impossible for a dying person to access death with dignity.
· It’s not falsifying the death certificate [by only listing the underlying terminal diagnosis instead of listing assisted suicide as reason for death] because that’s the way it is done in Oregon and Washington.
It goes on and on like this. The list of false and misleading statements that physician assisted suicide proponents said at the House hearing on HB 404 last Friday is hard to believe. But let’s take them at their word and address each of these assertions one by one:
1.Medical studies show that terminal patients have high rates of depression: according to this study “best estimates are that between 15% and 50% of cancer patients experience depressive symptoms, and 5% to 20% will meet various diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder.” These depressed, terminal patients have a higher likelihood of having suicidal thoughts. Proponents of physician assisted suicide and HB 404 are blatantly ignoring these data and argue that nothing should slow down a terminal patient’s quest to commit suicide, even if they are seriously depressed.
The 2015 data from Oregon show that an optional psychiatric evaluation does not work! Only 5 out of 132 patients receiving an assisted suicide prescription were referred for a professional mental health evaluation. That’s 3.8%. Far lower than the 15%-50% of cancer patients estimated to have depression (where 72% of OR residents receiving assisted suicide in 2015 had cancer!)
2.Pain isn’t even in the top 5 reasons why patients in Oregon chose assisted suicide. The 2015 Oregon “Death with Dignity” annual report shows that pain was the sixth highest reason stated for requesting assisted suicide – far behind “less ability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable”; “losing autonomy”; and “loss of dignity.”
3.More regulatory requirements are exactly what an issue like physician assisted suicide demands and what legislators should seek in issues that are literally life and death. It’s insulting for assisted suicide proponents to argue that receiving a prescription to commit suicide should be as simple as possible.
4.Just because Oregon and Washington “death with dignity” laws allow for the falsifying of a death certificate doesn’t mean it is OK to do in Maryland.