Reasons to oppose assisted suicide by telehealth

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

On May 19, the Hospice News reported that a bill will be introduced in the US Senate to extend the use of telehealth that was initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year I reported that the assisted suicide lobby was using the Covid-19 crisis to implement assisted suicide by telehealth

This was not a new plan. The 2019 New Mexico assisted suicide bill and the 2020 bill to expand assisted suicide in Hawaii included assisted suicide by telehealth provisions.

In June 2020, Wesley Smith reported that assisted suicide by telehealth was happening. Quoting from an article titled: “Dying Virtually,” published in The Conversation,  Smith stated:

[Dr. Carol] Parrot says she sees 90% of her patients online, visually examining a patient’s symptoms, mobility, affect and breathing. 

“I can get a great deal of information for how close a patient is to death from a Skype visit,” Parrot explained. “I don’t feel badly at all that I don’t have a stethoscope on their chest.” 

After the initial visit, whether in person or online, aid-in-dying physicians carefully collate their prognosis with the patient’s prior medical records and lab tests. Some also consult the patient’s primary physician.

I understand the benefit of expanding telehealth services but  assisted suicide is not a form of health care.

Assisted suicide by telehealth means that a person with difficult health issues who feels like a burden on others, or is experiencing depression or existential distress, could be assessed, approved and prescribed a lethal drug cocktail by telehealth without ever being examined by a physician.

Considering how common medical misdiagnosis is, assisted suicide by telehealth may lead to abuse of the law.

The language of the legislation is everything. 

Language referring to “specialty consultations” (assisted suicide requires consultations), or end-of-life care (the assisted suicide lobby defines assisted suicide as end-of-life care) requires clear definitions to prevent its use for assisted suicide.

Imprecise language within the legislation may enable assisted suicide doctors to do assisted suicide assessments and prescribe lethal assisted suicide drugs, without meeting or physically assessing the person.

Assisted suicide is not health care.  

Assisted suicide does not treat or cure a disease or condition, but rather it causes death. 

The main goals of the assisted suicide lobby is to normalize assisted suicide by redefining it as end-of-life care and to expand the availability of assisted suicide. Assisted suicide by telehealth achieves the second goal. Telehealth may also lead to out-of-state assisted suicide deaths.

Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the US. Assisted suicide by telehealth will exasperate the problem.

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