Euthanasia is a growing problem in the United States and across the world. Physician-assisted suicide was legalized in Oregon in 1994 (and later implemented in 1997), introducing sanctioned euthanasia to the United States. Washington followed suit in 2008 (implemented in 2009). On December 31, 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that nothing in Montana law prohibits a physician from aiding a patient in dying. California, Hawaii, Alaska, Maine, and New Hampshire have all been threatened by physician-assisted suicide but have thus far kept it at bay.
Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have long been practiced without legal consequence in the Netherlands—even though euthanasia was not officially permitted until just a few years ago. Cases have been documented in the Netherlands in which doctors have escaped jail time for non-voluntary euthanasia after being acquitted by the court system.
Right-to-Die groups have realized that accepting and promoting suicide is contrary to most Americans. Like the pro-choice activists, they have engaged in semantics to change the perception of their movement. “Physician-assisted suicide” has now become “physician-assisted dying” or “aid in dying.” They are also attempting to convince leading medical organizations to take positions of “studied neutrality,” meaning that they would neither support nor oppose physician-assisted suicide. Unfortunately, many organizations have already accepted these euphemisms and deconstruction of language.
Assisted Suicide and Depression
A study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health and Science University and published in the British Medical Journal in October 2008 shows that 26% of patients requesting assisted suicide in Oregon were depressed. In 2007, not even one of these patients was sent to a mental health professional. Clearly, the lack of concern for those who deem their lives not worth living is troubling. Depression is recognized as a call for help. Compassion and counseling should be offered to these suffering individuals, not lethal drugs.
Euthanasia: the killing of a patient (usually by his/her doctor) in the belief that death will be a benefit.
- Voluntary euthanasia: the killing of a person at his/her request.
- Physician-assisted suicide: the act of a physician giving a patient a lethal drug prescription knowing that the patient intends to use the drug to commit suicide.
- Non-voluntary euthanasia: the killing of a person who has never made any determinations known regarding euthanasia.
- Involuntary euthanasia: the killing of a person who has requested not to be euthanized.
End of Life Concerns
1. A request for assisted suicide is typically a cry for help. Counseling, assistance, positive alternatives, and symptom management are better solutions for very real problems.
2. Suicidal intent is typically transient. Of those who attempt suicide but are prevented, less than 4% attempt to do so again in the next five years; less than 11% will commit suicide over the next 35 years.
3. Terminally ill patients who desire death are depressed, and depression is treatable in those with a terminal illness. In one study, of the 24% of terminally ill patients who desired death, all had clinical depression. Once depression is adequately treated in terminal patients, their suicidal thoughts subside substantially.
4. Pain is controllable. Modern medicine has the ability to control pain. Killing oneself is not a way to end intense pain; a doctor better trained in palliative care is the solution.
5. In the U.S., legalizing voluntary active euthanasia [assisting suicide]means legalizing non-voluntary euthanasia. State courts have ruled time and again that if competent people have a right, the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution's Fourteenth Amendment requires that incompetent people be “given” the same “right.”
6. In the Netherlands, legalizing voluntary assisted suicide for those with terminal illness has spread to include non-voluntary euthanasia for many who have no terminal illnesses. Half of the killings in the Netherlands are now non-voluntary, and the problems for which death is now the legal “solution” include mental illness, permanent disability, and even simple old age.
7. Problems are not solved by killing the people with health problems. The more difficult but humane solution to human suffering is to address the problems directly.
(Dest: National Right to Life)
“Those promoting assisted suicide promised Oregon voters that it would be used only for extreme pain and suffering. Yet there has been no documented case of assisted suicide being used for untreatable pain. Instead, patients are being given lethal overdoses because of psychological and social concerns, especially fears that they may no longer be valued as people or may be a burden to their families.”
—Dr. Greg Hamilton, Portland psychiatrist