The Corner

Health Care

Attempt to Expand Oregon Assisted-Suicide License

Disabled protesters against physician-assisted suicide gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., October 5, 2005. (Reuters)

Oregon’s assisted-suicide legalization was the tip of the spear. Its provisions were never intended to remain restricted in perpetuity, but rather, were designed to give people false assurance that the ambitions of the euthanasia movement are limited.

They aren’t. And now true to form, a bill has been filed in Oregon to greatly expand eligibility and add other liberalizing provisions. First, HB 2232 would broaden the definition of terminal illness to the point that the term is stripped of any logical or cogent meaning:

“Terminal disease” means a disease that will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce or substantially contribute to a patient’s death.

Do you see how utterly open-ended that is? The condition could be a non-terminal illness or disability that would eventually contribute to — not necessarily cause — a patient’s death years in the future.

The bill also does away with the current requirement that the prescribed poison be taken orally, a provision intended to prevent third parties from killing the patient and disguising it as an assisted suicide. The new requirement is “self-administration,” which is also broadly defined:

“Self-administer” means a qualified patient’s physical act of ingesting or delivering by another method medication to end his or her life in a humane and dignified manner

Hence, a healthcare provider could hook the patient to an IV line containing a lethal dose of fentanyl that only required the patient to flip a switch to administer, sort of like Jack Kevorkian’s infamous suicide machine. Under this provision, poison could also be delivered by feeding tube, which could be done easily — if illegally — by someone other than the patient without anyone being the wiser.

Current Oregon law restricts lethal prescribing to licensed physicians. But many Beaver State MDs want no part of assisted suicide. So, the bill would expand eligibility to prescribe lethally to non-doctors:

“Health care provider” means a person licensed, certified or otherwise authorized or permitted by the law of this state to administer health care or dispense medication in the ordinary course of business or practice of a profession, and includes a health care facility.

Physician’s assistants can prescribe in Oregon, for example. The point is obviously to increase the cohort of willing lethal prescribers.

The bill maintains the current law’s phony definition of “counseling.”

“Counseling” means one or more consultations as necessary between a psychiatrist or licensed psychologist and a patient for the purpose of determining that the patient is capable and not  suffering from a psychiatric or psychological disorder or depression causing impaired judgment.

In other words, mental illness or depression that may be diagnosed need not actually be treated — which is the usual purpose of  “counseling.” Rather, the sole purpose of the mental-health referral is to deem the patient “capable,” which means,“the ability to make and communicate health care decisions to health care providers.” People can be very disturbed and still be “capable.”

There is an even more radical assisted-suicide legalization bill pending in New Mexico, which I described here. Delaware assisted-suicide enthusiasts will follow up a radical bill from last session with another, that I will detail once it has been officially filed.

Why do I keep bringing these proposals up? I want people to understand that the glib promises of tight restrictions made by U.S. activists are tactical lies designed to convince the reluctant to accept legalization. They are not intended to be permanent features of assisted-suicide practice going forward.

Those with eyes to see, let them see.

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