By Dave Andrusko
In staving off assisted suicide laws and/or initiatives, at the top of the heap is the opposition of medical associations to proposals to legalize what is now euphemistically labeled “aid in dying.” But in rightly emphasizing the importance of a wide-ranging set of opponents that includes medical groups, we shouldn’t overlook editorial opposition.
We’ve covered Colorado’s “Proposition 106: Aid-in-dying” in a number of posts. Today’s update is about the happy news that the more liberal Denver Post has just joined the more conservative Colorado Springs Gazette in calling on voters to reject the latest anti-life initiative from Compassion & Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society.
Not surprisingly, they emphasize different reasons to oppose.
To be clear, the Post seems to be coming to the right conclusion kicking and screaming. The editorial peters out after a strong opening paragraph:
After a lot of soul-searching, we are asking voters to reject Proposition 106, a measure that would give patients the legal right to end their life, because we fear the cultural, legal and medical shift that it would create in Colorado.
There are a couple of thoughtful points, in addition to a naïve faith there exists somewhere in the galaxy “proper safeguards.”
To begin with, for all the talk about “autonomy,” the editorial appreciates
Those facing their final months are in a vulnerable place, a time when an individual is susceptible to pressures both subtle and overt, susceptible to self-imposed guilt over burdening family and worries about spending hard-earned savings on care. Such patients also are susceptible to depression and its dark influences on decision-making.
Isn’t this the same Denver Post that supported a 2015 bill in the Colorado legislative that would allow physicians to prescribe “life ending drugs”? Yes. So what is different this time?
But we worry the present measure fails to include specific reporting requirements for what must be reported similar to the way in which Oregon has enacted its rules for the law that Colorado’s initiative draws from, and that Proposition 106 would entice insurers to drop expensive treatments for terminal patients even when medical advances might add months or years more to a life that a patient may wish to take.
To repeat, the Post places extraordinary faith in the imaginary protective powers of “reporting requirements,” but it does grasp that the Proposition 106 would increase the likelihood that the “terminally ill” (a vague term, if ever there was one)could be shortchanged by insurers.
The editorial also tip-toes around a truth that grows harder to ignore every day: those asking to be “assisted” to die do not cite pain as a primary reason. Rather they talk about losing autonomy and dignity and less able to engage in activities which can and is enormously influenced by those around them.
The editorial gingerly concludes
We worry that the top reasons physicians give for a patient ending a life are easily influenced by those around them and by the care they receive in their final days.
By contrast the Gazette skips all the high-falutin Post philosophizing about “personal liberty.” Here is the beginning of a hard-hitting editorial that ran in late September:
Proposition 106 would establish the assisted suicide trade for doctors willing to participate. An out-of-state special interest, funded mostly by billionaire George Soros, has marketed this measure as a form of compassion.
Suicide rates are a crisis in Colorado, and a poorly written plan to legitimize these tragedies raises big concerns.
Last week began with another teen suicide in Colorado Springs, where last year 15 teens killed themselves and doubled 2014’s suicide rate. Throughout Colorado, we lost 1,000 kids to suicide in 2015.
Suicide is climbing among all demographics throughout the state, as reported in May by The Denver Post. “Colorado’s suicide rate, one of the highest in the country, is climbing, with 19.4 suicides for 100,000 residents,” the Post reported.
The editorial builds on its initial point–the likelihood that there will be more suicides among people who are not terminally ill–to hit on a crucial flaw:
Proposition 106 says to qualify for assisted suicide, one must be of sound mind. Yet, nothing in the law requires even a cursory psychological evaluation. The will to die by prescription could be related to a minor bout with depression, easily treated if properly diagnosed. A study in Oregon found 66 percent of people who chose to end their lives did so because of the loss of a will to live, not excessive pain as this bill’s sponsors would have you believe.
Let me conclude with the editorial’s stirring conclusion:
“Death with Dignity” sounds like compassion. Evil is often disguised as good. Few among us want dying patients to suffer needlessly against their will. This ill-conceived proposal is not the answer. It stands to do far more harm than good.
Vote no on Proposition 106, a dangerous idea that can only endanger vulnerable patients and exacerbate Colorado’s suicide crisis.