Politics & Policy

The Corner

Oregon’s Permissive Assisted Suicide Regime

The media have always gone along with the nonsense that assisted suicide and euthanasia laws are governed by strict guidelines to prevent abuse. In actuality, the guidelines–such as they are–are merely to give an appearance of control. 

Since the media has no interest in really investigating how these laws work–meaning, they refuse to do their jobs–the truth often comes out via overseas inquiries of investigators from countries considering legalization. Thus, several years ago, a House of Lords commission uncovered that Oregon death bureaucrats destroy all records used to compile their annual reports–meaning that there can be no effective independent inquiry or investigations. The HoL investigators also learned that the oversight agency has no budget or authority to investigate abuses.

Now, a Swedish citizen-investigator named Fabian Stahle sent the Oregon Health Authority questions about how it interprets the law. The candid responses he received from Craig New, Research Analyst, Oregon Health Authority, Center for Public Health Practice, Public Health Division, are worth publicizing.

For example, New states that the Authority very liberally construes the law in its regulatory approach. From “Oregon Health Authority Reveals Hidden Problems with the Oregon Assisted Suicide Model (my emphasis):

The law is best seen as a permissive law, and states only that patients must have a terminal illness with six months or less to live. It does not compel patients to have exhausted all treatment options first, or to continue current treatment.

Here’s the thing: Assisted suicide was sold to Oregon voters as exactly the opposite–as a very restricted law that would merely serve as a safety valve when nothing else could be done to alleviate suffering. It was always baloney.

Stahle asked whether someone would live longer than six months could qualify for assisted suicide if they refuse the medical treatments that kept them from dying:

I sent the following question to the Oregon Health Authority (DWDA.INFO@dhsoha.state.or.us):

1. In the law, “terminal disease” is defined as an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment (in the opinion of the patient’s attending physician and consulting physician), produce death within six months.

Is this rule interpreted as “without administration of life-sustaining treatment”? Craig New, Research Analyst, Oregon Health Authority, Center for Public Health Practice, Public Health Division, answered the question on 4 December, 2017:

2A. …your interpretation is correct. The question is: should the disease be allowed to take its course, absent further treatment, is the patient likely to die within six months? (Stahle’s emphasis)

Stahle specifically asked about diabetes that is treatable (emphasis added):

3. If a patient with a chronic disease (for instance, diabetes) by some reason decides to opt out from the life-sustaining medication/treatment and by doing so is likely to die within 6 months, thereby transforming the chronic disease to a terminal disease—does he/she then become eligible to take use of the act?

On 6 December, 2017, Craig New gave the following answers to these questions: A. Interesting questions. While this is not addressed specifically in the law, the answer in both cases is yes—those patients would qualify.

And get this: Stahle asked whether a patient could qualify for assisted suicide even if a cure was available, or the treatment was unaffordable. Answer: Yes!

In your two examples, both patients would qualify for the DWDA. Patients suffering from any disease (not just those that typically qualify one for the DWDA) may not be able to afford some treatments or medication, and may choose not to pursue some treatments or take some medication for personal reasons…If the patient does not receive treatment or medication (for whatever reason) and is left with a terminal illness, then s/he would qualify for the DWDA.

I think you could also argue that even if the treatment/medication could actually cure the disease, and the patient cannot pay for the treatment, then the disease remains incurable (emphasis added).

That means people who could live decades with treatment, can instead receive assisted suicide in some cases.

Do I detect a yawn? That’s the problem.

Once people decide being killed and/or receiving lethal prescriptions is worth legalizing, they cease caring much about whether the earnestly made promises of protections against abuse are actually fulfilled. 

Caveat emptor!

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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