One of the common arguments offered by assisted suicide advocates is that the track record of the practice in Oregon shows that there have been no problems. Just last week, I sat in the courtroom of the Appellate Division and heard the suicide group’s lawyer say that repeatedly and with passion
The problem for them is, it just isn’t true. In fact, the most recent report from Oregon bears out all the warnings we’ve been offering about what would happen if it were legalized here in New York:
- It threatens disabled people — the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns are not unbearable pain, but instead were decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (96.2%), loss of autonomy (92.4%), and loss of dignity (75.4%). Legalization of assisted suicide amounts to saying that a life with a disability is not worth living.
- It ignores mental health problems — Only 3.8% of those who ask for suicide are referred for psychiatric evaluation, even though it’s well-established that those who ask for suicide are frequently suffering from treatable depression. A recent study of euthanasia in Holland underscores this problem — people with mental illness are not getting psychiatric treatment for their problems and are choosing to kill themselves instead.
- It harms the elderly — Virtually all those who committed suicide were over 55, and the great majority over 65. Are we really willing to send the message that suicide is a good thing for elderly people?
- It threatens vulnerable and isolated people — 62.5% were insured by some kind of government insurance (e.g. Medicaid or Medicare), 26% were widowed, and 27.5% divorced; the median length of their relationship with the doctor who gave them the deadly drugs was only 9 weeks — and at least one person had only known their doctor for one week.
- There is no supervision to prevent abuse — 79.2% died with no health provider present, and in more than 89% of the cases the prescribing doctor was not present (although he makes the report and signs the death certificate). So how can we tell if the person was mentally competent, and free of coercion?
- It’s a danger to others — 86 people got the deadly drugs but didn’t take them, raising the question — what happened to the other drugs?
- The numbers continue to rise — Every year there’s an increase in people receiving deadly drugs and in those taking them. It should also be noted that other studies have shown that the overall suicide rate increases in states where assisted suicide is legal.
No matter how the advocates try to twist the language (using the Orwellian term "aid in dying", as opposed to "assisted suicide") or spin the numbers, we all know where this is going. In the European countries that have legalized suicide, it has led to widespread euthanasia, including involuntary killing of patients who never asked for suicide, the killing of children, and the establishment of stand-alone suicide clinics. Advocates here have already said that they intend to extend the reach of assisted suicide beyond the terminally ill.
The facts are clear — the danger is real