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Many states are facing doctor-prescribed suicide bills

SUMMER 2016

California’s new law allowing doctor-prescribed suicide took effect on June 9th. The bill was passed in October in a special legislative session devoted to paying for health care.

The victory has emboldened euthanasia advocates, who had suffered numerous defeats throughout the country, including losing a referendum on doctor-prescribed suicide in Michigan by a vote of 71-29 percent in 1998.

Currently California, Washington, Oregon and Vermont allow doctor-prescribed suicide. A court case in Montana has effectively allowed it, but no state law is in effect there.

Most bills introduced in other states closely follow Oregon’s law and share that law’s same flaws. Oregon’s law has no process in place to monitor and respond to abuses of patients. It also requires doctors to lie on death certificates about the cause of death. Advocates say legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide brings practices to light, but the laws they promote keep the practices in a shroud of darkness.

In a climate of increasing health care costs and academic discussion of government rationing of health care, doctor-prescribed suicide creates a worrying incentive for medical professionals. In some cases in Oregon the government-run health care plans will pay to help ill patients commit suicide, but not for more expensive yet effective medical treatments.

Responding to already present problems, Michigan passed the Medical Good-Faith Provisions Act in 2013. It was discovered that hospitals and doctors in some cases have been withholding information from patients and children’s parents with the intent to hasten the deaths of people whose medical care they deemed “futile.” The law requires patients to be informed if a facility has a futile care policy.

Experience with other states and countries abroad that embrace doctor-prescribed suicide and euthanasia proves correct the arguments that these practices don’t help alleviate the suffering of individuals. Instead, doctor-prescribed suicide endangers the rights of patients to receive adequate care, corrupts medical institutions, and threaten the conscience rights of those who refuse to take part in taking life.


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