Human Exceptionalism

Don’t Let Electronic Treatment Decision Registries be Used To Make Responders Complicit in Suicides

Oregon may be about to pass a law that puts a patient’s end of life desires into a computer registry.  From the story:

Oregon is making it easier for the seriously ill to voluntarily make their wishes known about end-of-life care by creating an electronic database that first responders can quickly check during a medical emergency.  At least two other states—West Virginia and New York—are developing similar systems, which are an outgrowth of signed paper forms. Known as physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, or Polst, the forms are supposed to direct all health-care providers about the type of care a patient wants to receive.

Paper-based systems are in use or in development in 33 states. Many people put the papers on their refrigerators or some other prominent location in their homes. But paper forms are sometimes overlooked or lost. The electronic systems aim to make the information in these forms—such as whether a patient wants a feeding tube or even to be taken to a hospital at all—more readily available to an emergency worker, through a phone call or the Internet.

I have no problem with this in theory and under restricted conditions such as hospice.  But we must be careful.  I think there should be a complete exclusion from suspected suicides from this plan.  In other words, no emergency response or medical team should be required to stand back and allow a person attempting suicide to die–whether or not part of a legalized assisted suicide regimen–otherwise they become complicit in the death.  Indeed, no one should have the right to force another to participate in their self destruction.

Think that would never happen?  It already has in the UK. Even though she could have been saved, Kerrie Woolteron was allowed to die by doctors after she drank anti freeze.  Why?  When the ambulance brought her to the ER, she had a note pinned to her clothes stating she didn’t want to be treated.  And so, even though she was mentally disturbed and had many suicide attempts on her record, the doctors just stood back and watched her die painfully over a 24 hour period.  Disgraceful–and approved by the Coroner’s Inquest.

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