Diabetes is generally thought of as a chronic disease, but it is chronic only when treated. Without treatment it is terminal. A suicidal person can render it terminal by declining treatment.
Depression is also common among people with diabetes (http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/depression.html).
Unlike the Vermont law, which will only require a listing of the prescriptions written, the Oregon assisted suicide law requires annual reports on its implementation. In the 2012 report, for the first time, diabetes appears among the “terminal” diseases used to the justify a doctor’s writing a lethal prescription for drugs for use in committing suicide. The link to the report is http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year15.pdf. On page five there is a list of the “underlying” illnesses; the last category is “Other Illnesses”, and it cites an end note, number 6, which is found on page five and lists the other diseases, including “diabetes mellitus”.
Diabetes appears again in the 2013 report (http://public.health.oregon.gov/ProviderPartnerResources/EvaluationResearch/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/year16.pdf), so we can assume this was not an anomaly, that recognizing diabetes as a terminal disease eligible for an assisted suicide prescription is becoming standard practice in Oregon. The diseases are listed on page 6, and the end note is on page 7.
On January 30, 2013, Ann Jackson, former director of the Oregon Hospice association, testified before the VT Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She was asked whether she considered it acceptable for a patient to decline treatment for diabetes and then receive assistance in suicide. She replied that yes, it is acceptable.
A person has a right, protected by law, to decline or discontinue unwanted treatment. True Dignity does not advocate for that protection to be removed, but we believe a person should take the responsibility for his or her own decisions, because getting the state or the medical profession involved is too dangerous to be tolerated. This is particularly true with a disease that is too often accompanied by depression and its symptom, suicidal ideation, and also because diabetes is not terminal unless untreated. It is impossible to know from the reports whether people suffering from treatable diabetes-related depression, people who could have lived for years and years, declined treatment to become eligible for assistance in following the promptings of depression-related suicidal ideation.
Our culture has a long tradition of engaging in suicide prevention efforts for people with depression who express a desire for or attempt suicide. It appears that 16 years of legal assisted suicide in Oregon has so corrupted the medical profession and society as a whole that these people are now being offered assistance in suicide rather than they so desperately need.
There is no reason to believe that the same thing will not happen in Vermont if we do not repeal our assisted suicide law. We won’t even know whether it happens. Right now doctors only have to report that they have written a prescription, nothing about what happened afterwards. After two years, the law requires that there be no reporting requirements at all.