Physician Assisted Suicide

 

 

Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)  

     History In Connecticut & Action Alert

 

In public hearings sponsored by the Public Health Committee, we defeated two physician assisted suicide bills — HB6645 in 2013 and HB5326 in 2014.

Email letters and testimonies by members of the Connecticut Right to Life Corporation, the Gospel of Life Society, our Legislative Committee, and our alliances played a key role.  Also important was the sharing of vital information opposing assisted suicide, most of which is now stored on this Web site and includes

1) Medical statements opposing suicide from the AMA, Sloan Kettering and other top medical institutions involved in treating terminal cancer patients on a daily basis  http://connrlc.org/?page_id=233

2) Details on the slippery slope (of voluntary assisted suicide to involuntary euthanasia) across the globe  http://connrlc.org/?page_id=940 and

3) CDC statistics on the increased suicides of teens from 15-24 years in Oregon after a similar bill was passed there.

We asked all members of the CT Right to Life Corp., Gospel of Life Society, and our alliances to attend the hearings for the 2013 and 2014 bills and to write their legislators asking that they oppose assisted suicide on their behalf.  Many did that and did attend to fill the halls of the Legislative Building with their enthusiasm, information, and white stickers. We made a good showing!

Previously in 2013, two bills, were presented on Physician Assisted Suicide (S.B. 48) introduced by Sen. Ed Meyer (D-12 – North Branford) and Death with Dignity (HB 6217) introduced by Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield (D-94 – Hamden/New Haven).

Any of the above bills would have changed Connecticut law to allow Physician Assisted Suicide.

Senator Michael McLachlin (R-24 – Danbury) introduced Penalty for Assisted Suicide (SB 229) to make Physician Assisted Suicide a felony.

 

Physician Assisted Suicide Is

Assisted suicide is when a person provides the means and/or information for another person to commit suicide. When a physician is involved, it is physician-assisted suicide (PAS). In the bills presented to legalize PAS, the role of the physician is surprisingly minimal.  All the physician would do is prescribe the lethal dose (which typically comes in the form of pills to be swallowed). The patient, who is usually a hospice patient living at home, may fill the prescription at any time and take the dose at any time. There is no requirement that the physician be available at the time of death.  These bills would:

  • Devalue life.  In  Connecticut in 2008 and 2009 we already had the second highest rate of suicide attempts in the nation among people 18 and older.  That rate has been rising for the last five years, and is at a 20-year high. We should value life and seek ways to prevent suicide, not encourage it.
  • Goes Against “Physicians should do no harm.” How can patients trust their physicians if the physicians sometimes prescribe death as health care? Two patients in Oregon asked for authorization for medical treatment. Instead, they received a kit with instructions for PAS. Suicide is not health care.  See http://connrlc.org/?page_id=515
  • Oregon’s experience indicates people do not seek PAS because of pain. Pain can be relieved. According to the Oregon Dept of Health Annual Reports, most sought suicide for quality of life reasons or depression.  Depression can be and should be treated. See  http://connrlc.org/?page_id=245
  • Physician Assisted Suicide could lead to elder abuse by an heir or someone else who would benefit from the patient’s death. People with disabilities would be threatened by judgments on their “quality of life.”
  • Legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide would imply that it is ok to kill yourself and could cause patients who have a tendency to feel like a burden to ask for assisted death which the Oregon reports showed was  another reason they asked for PAS there.
  • As in the Netherlands, it may also lead to killing patients against their will by euthanasia (such as the withholding of food and water when a patient cannot feed themselves, as after a stroke or injury.) See http://connrlc.org/?page_id=940
  • Passing a law that legalizes suicide could result in increased suicides in Connecticut, as it did in Oregon. Once assisted suicide was legalized there, suicide rates quickly rose to over 41% above the national average.  Suicide rates for youth from 15 to 24  increased from being the third major cause of death to the second. Suicides that involved the murder of others also increased.  We do not need this in Connecticut.

For more information:

See the subpages under the Phyiscian Assisted Suicide Tab. We expect promoters of assisted suicide to return in 2015 with another attempt to pass a suicide bill or an attempt to pass a bill that enables palliative care to include euthanasia.

Euthanasia is the involuntary murder of a patient without the patient’s consent by withholding something needed to live such as high blood pressure medicine, insulin, antibiotics, or the withholding of food and water when a patient cannot feed themselves as after a stroke. It might also involve dehydrating a patient and/or providing an overdose.

Patients most vulnerable to this are those who are terminal,
chronically ill, become unconscious, or are elderly or disabled
AND who have signed a Living Will, which is an advance directive,
with DNR (do not resuscitate) instructions.

The Living Will is distributed by most hospitals by government law. The DNR instructions in the living will may be interpreted loosely to mean do not provide medicine, food and water, etc.

For this reason, we recommend patients find alternatives to the living will which do not carry to the same risks.  The best explanations can be found on the American Life League site and they offer a danger-free alternative document to the Living Will, called the Loving Will.  Read about it here http://www.all.org/article/index/id/MjQ5NA  Priests for Life also provide information and an alternative advanced directive, see http://www.priestsforlife.org/euthanasia/livingwill.htm   .

ACTION ALERTPlease start writing your legislators now and ask them to oppose any new form of a Physician Assisted Suicide bill or pain management bill that enables euthanasia. Continue to do this through 2016. Promoters of this year’s bill were surprised and angry to have been defeated two years in a row.  They said they would be back in 2015.  Keep writing. Use the material on this site – it is put here for your use. Thank you!