The Corner


California Hospital Sued for Refusing to Assist Suicide

This lawsuit is a little before its time.

Should assisted suicide become widely accepted in this country, activists will try to force all doctors to participate–either by doing the deed or referring to a doctor known to be willing to lethally prescribe.

But it isn’t yet, and so the pretense of the movement that they only want an itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy change in mores and law continues as SOP.

But sometimes they show their true intentions. Thus, when UCSF oncologists refused to assist a cancer patient’s suicide, the woman died of her disease. Now, her family is suing–using the same attorney (Kathryn Tucker) who tried (unsuccessfully) to obtain an assisted suicide Roe v Wade in 1997 and has brought other pro-assisted sucide cases around the country. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

Judy Dale died of cancer in her San Francisco home in September, in agony, after being denied the pain-relieving medication she might have received under the state’s aid-in-dying law that had taken effect three months earlier.

Bias alert! Pain relieving medication is palliative, to ease pain or other very uncomfortable. Dale was not issued a lethal prescription intended to kill her. That’s not the same thing.

Back to the story:

A lawsuit by her children will determine whether UCSF Medical Center, where Dale first went for treatment, was responsible for her suffering by allegedly concealing its oncologists’ decision not to provide life-ending drugs to patients who ask for them.

More broadly, their suit illuminates the inner workings of a law that confers new rights on terminally ill patients, but few obligations on their health care providers.

Specifically, doctors and hospitals are provided clear and explicit conscience protections in the law. No hospital or physician can be forced to participate or refer in an assisted suicide

Demonstrating the disingenuousness of the lawyers bringing suit, that provision was–as the story reports–required to induce the California Medical Association to go neutral on the law, without which it almost surely would never have passed.

The primary claim is elder abuse. If that theory prevails, not helping kill a patient would become a form of abuse! Unthinkable.

The plaintiffs also contend that the hospital had assured Dale she would be able to receive assisted suicide, and then failed to follow through. I don’t know if that kind of statement would be actionable or not since there is no legal duty to do the deed, as it were.

But this I do know: The lawsuit illustrates where the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement wants to go. As in Ontario, Canada, they want doctors and hospitals to be forced to participate in assisted suicide or get out of medicine.

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

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