Oregon Senate Bill 494 will starve and dehydrate incompetent people to death

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In Oregon, the Senate is debating a deceptive bill (SB 494) that appears to simply replace the current advanced directives legislation, but in fact promotes the withholding or withdrawal of nutrition and hydration (food and water) from people who are incompetent and not dying.

In 2006, I attended the World Federation of Right to Die Societies Conference. One of the topics discussed at the conference was death by voluntary stopping of eating and drinking (VSED). I remember the leader of the Dying in Dignity group (UK) stating that they do not promote VSED because, in their experience, it can be a terrible way to die.

Even though Oregon legalized assisted suicide 20 years ago, euthanasia is prohibited. Euthanasia is an act whereby one person directly and intentionally causes the death of another person, whereas assisted suicide is an act whereby one person directly and intentionally assists another person in causing their own death.

SB 494 opens the door to euthanasia of incompetent people in Oregon.

SB 494 is deceptive and dangerous piece legislation because it is sold as a bill to update current legislation. The truth is it changes current legislation to ensure that incompetent people–who may or may not be otherwise dying–can be intentionally killed by dehydration.

Advanced directives are only relevant when a person is incompetent to make decision for themselves. Therefore SB 494, by definition, does not ensure that competent people can die by dehydration, but rather that incompetent people can be dehydrated to death.

SB 494 states:

____ I do not want my life to be prolonged by life support. I also do not want tube feeding as life support. I want my health care provider to allow me to die naturally if my health care provider and another knowledgeable health care provider confirm that I am in any of the medical conditions listed below.

So what are the conditions that are listed below?

a. Close to Death. b. Permanently Unconscious. c. Advanced Progressive Illness. d. Extraordinary Suffering.

If a person is nearing death, withholding or withdrawing fluids must be based on a factual assessment that providing food and water to the patient has ceased to benefit and may be harming the person.

If a person is incompetent, then the person cannot actually consent to death by dehydration. Withholding or withdrawing fluids from a person who is not otherwise dying, in fact, will cause the person to die from dehydration.

This often results in a terrible death, even when the symptoms are masked by morphine and other analgesics. It is also a form of social abandonment to deny a person the basic necessaries of life.

SB 494 opens the door to euthanasia of incompetent people in Oregon because death by lethal injection is more compassionate than dehydrating a person to death.

It is simply not necessary to change the current Oregon Advanced Directives legislation in order to specifically promote death by dehydration.

SB 494 must be defeated.

Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.