This week’s hearings in the Vermont legislature will certainly feature claims that the Oregon assisted suicide ;aw is “safe”, that it has been free from abuse over its 16 year existence. That is an assertion no one can make. Oregon conceals the data about individual deaths, citing “privacy” rights. Oregon’s annual reports give only general statistics, and Oregon doctor Kenneth Stevens has written that they “raise more questions than answers”.
For example the 2013 report says that doctors or other health care professionals were present at only 11 of the 77 assisted suicide deaths that took place in 2012. Neither hospice nor Oregon hospitals will allow assisted suicide within their facilities, where there would be supervision, according to George Eighmey, an assisted suicide lobbyist who has visited VT several times to promote its legalization here. Without any requirement for disinterested witnesses, a terminally ill person who only got the prescription in order to have it “just in case”, one who might have been among the significant proportion of patients who never actually take it, could be forced to take the lethal dose, or given it without his knowledge. No one would ever investigate the death of a person who had requested suicide drugs, and it would surely not show up on the Oregon report. We simply don’t know, and the nature or Oregon’s law makes it impossible to know, whether that has actually happened.
In a world in which politicians and the media can say openly that the elderly ought to hurry up and die, legal assisted suicide is terribly dangerous. No amount of tinkering with regulations can ever prevent its inherently pressuring, choice-destroying effects.
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition addresses the myth that Oregon’s assisted suicide law has been implemented “safely” in a recent article which can be read at http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/. Note especially his concerns about competency.