I agree that doctors certainly should “engage” with this issue…and…of course I strongly disagree with the BMJ’s position in favor of physician assisted suicide (PAS).
There is much more to say, though for today I am going to focus on three points: 1) languaging, 2) the idea of organization “neutrality” on this issue, and 3) physician engagement on this issue.
First, languaging around the issue of PAS is important and should not be overlooked. Names matter and, specifically, the specificity of naming matters. Diseases, treatments, etc. in medicine tend to become more exact and accurate over time. This is to help distinguish between one and the next in meaningful ways. The push to move from terms like “assisted suicide” to “assisted death/dying” suggests, charitability, that those in favor of the latter see no difference between someone dying of their disease vs someone dying because of a purposeful lethal ingestion prescribed by a doctor.
Please read that again…people on the pro-PAS side of the argument, at best, see no difference between you dying of cancer and a doctor prescribing you a lethal overdose.
If you believe there is an important moral difference between these then please, please speak up next time you see this in writing or hear it in conversation. Kind, charitable questions can generally help clarify whether the other person understands this essential difference. At the very least we should be clear about what we’re discussing. If you’d like to let the BMJ know what you think, you can contact them here.
Second, Dr. Godlee states both, “The BMJ’s position is that terminally ill people should be able to choose an assisted death…” AND “…the journal has called on professional organisations to adopt a neutral stance on the grounds that a decision to legalise assisted dying is for society and parliament to make.” Just so we’re clear, it’s ok for the BMJ to be in favor of PAS AND it is improper for other organizations to take the opposite position. Gotcha. (Hopefully) No further comment needed on this point.
Third, “Engagement of doctors in recent polls has been limited, with only 20% of physicians, 19% of BMA members, and 13% of GPs responding.” I hope this makes it clear that any polls that might be out there woefully under-, and likely mis-represent, the true opinion of physicians.
This debate is far from over and we are continuing to work with our colleagues and friends across New York State to keep our patients, friends, family, ourselves, and indeed our very profession safe from the scourge of physician assisted suicide!
For all of those Assisted Suicide slippery-slope-skeptics out there…the slippery slope is a real thing! Exhibit A – California…
Now it’s time to improve the law, Brody said, “with the political courage to take on the vested interests who didn’t want this law in the first place, who don’t want the law now and who have demanded these so-called safeguards,” he said.
“These ‘safeguards’ have turned out to be barriers,” he said.
The lawsuit filed in CA claims that the state’s Assisted Suicide law unjustly discriminates against people who are physically unable to self-administer the medications meant to end their lives. This is significant because of the “safe guards” often used to sell us laws is that we would never allow something as terrible as euthanasia…not here in America!…they say. And now here we are.
Whether or not this lawsuit succeeds, there are sure to be similar legal challenges in other states with Assisted Suicide laws on the books. Eventually one of them is likely be successful.
It was a tough fight but I’m happy to inform you that the Connecticut bill to legalize assisted suicide died in committee yesterday when there were not enough votes to pass it. Great thanks and congratulations are due to the large diverse and effective coalition that pulled out all of the stops to defeat the bill. Of the remaining bills, Nevada is the most critical at this time. We will keep you posted.
States Which Defeated Bills to Legalize or Expand Assisted Suicide in 2021
Arizona: HB 2254, SB 1775. Bills died in committee with no activity.
Connecticut: HB 6425. Passed in one committee, died in the second committee.
Indiana: HB 1074. Bill died in committee with no activity.
Iowa: SF 212, HF475. Bills died in committee with no activity.
Kentucky: HB 506. Bill died in committee with no activity.
North Dakota: HB 1415. Bill voted down by the House.
Washington: HB 1141, an expansion bill. Passed in the House and failed when the Senate did not take it up.
States Which Enacted Bills to Legalize Assisted Suicide in 2021
New Mexico: HB 47. Passed in the House and Senate, signed into law by the Governor.
States with Bills to Legalize Assisted Suicide in 2021
Kansas: HB 2202
Massachusetts: S. 1384, H. 2381
Minnesota: SF 1352, HF 1358
Nevada: SB 105, AB 351
New York: A 4321
Pennsylvania: S.B. 405
Rhode Island: H 5572
States With Bills to Expand Assisted Suicide in 2021
California: SB 380
Hawaii: SB 323, SB 839, SD 2, HB 487. Passed in the Senate, carried over to 2022.
The ironically- (and sadly-) named pro-suicide group “Compassion and Choices” is focusing their efforts on passing Physician Assisted Suicide legislation in a number of states, including New York. They will not rest, and so we must not either!
One great organization that will help keep you abreast of developments in the are is Patients Rights Action Fund. Check them out and consider donating.
Remember, those in favor of assisted suicide are tireless and committed to nothing short of open and free access to death on demand. In their own words…
Compassion and Choices Fall Magazine
We are committed to continuing and expanding these efforts. How will COVID-19 impact our ability to authorize medical aid in dying in more states in 2021? Increased competition from issues emerging as a result of COVID-19 and greater awareness of racial inequities will make it more challenging to get any law passed in the near term. However, the unfortunate reality is that large numbers of people have and continue to suffer lonely, isolated deaths. We have seen time and time again that when people experience firsthand the inhumanity of suffering at life’s end, our support solidifies, intensifies and grows.
This reality, along with the momentum we had coming into COVID-19 and a combined total of 50 years of experience successfully implementing medical aid in dying in 10 jurisdictions, leaves me feeling optimistic for the future. We can anticipate authorizing an average of one state per year, putting us on track to realize our strategic goal of ensuring that 50% of the population lives in a state where medical aid in dying is authorized and accessible by 2028. What states look the most promising for advancing medical aid in dying? Massachusetts lawmakers, for the first time ever, advanced their medical aid-in-dying legislation during COVID-19, voting it out of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. We are hopeful the state will authorize medical aid in dying in the near term. In terms of the rest of the country, I will be able to answer this question with more certainty on November 3, just after the election. I anticipate lawmakers sponsoring bills in approximately 20 states where we are organizing and working alongside coalitions to move legislation forward. The political climate and grassroots support are increasingly promising in nine of those states — Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada and Virginia.
Last year, Oregon passed legislation to improve the existing bill. Do you anticipate other states following suit? Absolutely. We have conclusive data that the existing law is unnecessarily burdensome, and we will work with lawmakers in some states to begin to address this reality. Fundamental improvements include 1) the elimination of or ability for doctors to waive the waiting period for patients actively dying; 2) the inclusion of nurse practitioners and/or physician assistants as allowable practitioners; 3) a requirement that providers disclose their medical aid-in-dying policies, allowing patients to make informed decisions about where to access the care they want.
Thank you to everyone who offered their support for my talk about Physician Assisted Suicide opposite Tim Quill on Wednesday! I very much appreciate the (virtual) “in-person” support of those who were able to join via Zoom and for all of your prayers!
I am told that the session was recorded and I will post the link when it becomes available.
Please consider supporting our President, Dr. Tom Carroll, as he talks about Physician Assisted Suicide opposite Dr. Timothy Quill on Wednesday, 5/27, from 12-1pm. The Zoom link is https://urmc.zoom.us/s/94337697512
This presentation is part of the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Unmasked conference. This is a forum for presentations about projects around the COVID-19 crisis and abstracts that were part of canceled conferences this spring. In addition to Dr. Carroll’s presentation there is a full slate of intriguing presentations on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Please feel free to join any/all that you like!