By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Last month, a concerned Swedish citizen wrote, “Oregon Health Authority Reveals Hidden Problems with the Oregon Assisted Suicide model.“
Fabian Stahle became concerned with the Oregon assisted suicide model after the Swedish National Council on Medical Ethics published the report, “Assisted death: A Knowledge Compilation” which supported the legalization of “Oregon Model” assisted suicide.
Stahle communicated by email (December 2017) with Craig New, an analyst for the Oregon Health Authority. New states that the definition of “terminal disease” used by the Oregon Health Authority was wider than the regular definition of terminal disease and he confirmed that people who are chronically ill can be approved for assisted suicide in Oregon, even if they do not have a terminal disease when they refuse effective treatment.
New confirms that diabetics can be approved for assisted suicide if they refuse the insulin and he also confirms that even if the person became “terminally ill” by being denied effective medical treatment by an insurance company or state health plan, they could be approved for assisted suicide.
But there is more. Recently Stahle shared the email conversation with the Oregon Health Authority. The email exchange confirms that Oregon citizens who voted for assisted suicide during the voter initiative, 20 years ago, were deceived.
Do you know if the meaning of terminal disease has been interpreted in the same way (without administration of life-sustaining treatment/medication) from the very beginning when the law came into force or is it an interpretation that has come gradually since one have realized the meaning of what the law actually says and does not say?
My understanding is that the language of the law has not changed since it was passed. There has been discussion and debate among advocates on both sides of the law, but none of this has materialized into changes (or clarifications) to the law itself.
We at the Public Health Division (which is directed by the law to monitor compliance) have always held this interpretation of “terminal illness.”
Stahle, then asks:
I happened to find the “State of Oregon Official Voters’ Pamphlet November 1994”. From page 123 I read about Measure 16 and find in the section Definitions that “terminal disease” means an incurable and irreversible disease, that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgement, produce death within six (6) months. In the absence of further definition in the pamphlet of the terms “incurable and irreversible disease” it seems to me as the most straightforward and immediate interpretation of “incurable and irreversible disease” should be a disease for which there is no treatment or medication – in the meaning that all hope is gone. Neither in the Explanatory Statement, nor in the Arguments – Favour or in Opposition, are there any language suggesting a wider interpretation. And then, looking at “State of Oregon Official Voters’ Pamphlet November 1997”, Measure 51 about repealing DWDA according to previous Measure 16, I cannot find among all Arguments in Favour of repealing the DWDA any suggestions that “terminal disease” could be interpreted wider than the obvious interpretation as stated above.
I think the key for us is that the patient is not compelled (by law or any other reason) to begin or continue treatment for any disease.
New states that the definitions have not changed and then later states that the definition includes refusing treatment for any disease. A clear deception was perpetrated by the assisted suicide lobby to hide the wider application of the Oregon assisted suicide law.
Legislators are also being deceived because they are not being told the wider application of the assisted suicide legislation.
Another deception is the lack of oversight of the assisted suicide law. Stahle asks:
How does the Public Health Division/Oregon Health Authority check that the eligibility criteria are really fulfilled?
The attending physician indicates whether the eligibility criteria have been met on his/her compliance form, which they submit to the Public Health Division as required by the law. The consulting physician does the same, and acts as a check on the first physician. We (the Public Health Division) do not independently verify the eligibility of the patients.
New responds to a later question by stating:
If a physician believes that a patient meets the criteria (and a second physician agrees), then (technically) that patient does meet the criteria.
The response from Oregon Health Authority confirms what I have previously stated, that there is no effective oversight of the Oregon assisted suicide law. The yearly Oregon DWD [“Death with Dignity”] reports are based on information from the physicians who approved the assisted suicide death and the information is not independently verified. Therefore, we don’t know if the information from these reports is accurate.
Stahle concludes his original article by stating:
Proponents want to sell the Oregon model along with the assurance that medically-assisted suicide only applies to dying patients where all hope is lost. But it is completely misleading. Surely vulnerable people in Sweden and all over the world deserve better than laws with such inherent dangers hiding beneath the surface.
Last year more than 20 US States debated the legalization of assisted suicide. Nearly all of those legislative proposals were based on the deceptive Oregon assisted suicide model. Legislators need to reject these assisted suicide bills, not only because they are dangerous, but also because these bills employ deceptive, ill defined ,and expansive language.
Thank you Fabian Stahle for uncovering Hidden Problems with the Oregon assisted suicide model.
Editor’s note. This appeared on Mr. Schadenberg’s blog and is reposted with permission.