We recently posted an article entitled “ Euthanasia of People with Dementia in the Netherlands”. Marcie Landell correctly points out on our Facebook wall that euthanasia is a “step beyond assisted suicide”. We believe it is an inevitable step.
While it is important to distinguish between assisted suicide, in which a person takes his or her own life, and euthanasia, or mercy killing by another person, it is also important to note that the line separating them is extremely thin. The article we posted is a synopsis of another article, from which it takes the following quote: “…the practice of assisted suicide (our emphasis) for dementia patients remains controversial,” The synopsized article goes on to say that the figures given are for euthanasia and do not include assisted suicide numbers, but the quoted sentence clearly shows that it conflates the two.
We at True Dignity Vermont do not believe the line between assisted suicide and euthanasia has held in Oregon, the US state with the longest experience with legal assisted suicide. The following facts are taken from an article published online by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. To read the complete article, with citations of the sources of its information, go to http://www.google.com/search?q=Dredf&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
Dr. Peter Rasmussen (oncologist) says he emptied capsules & stirred drug into pudding for Wanda McMaster
(with ALS); he also prepared the mixture for Barbara Houck (also with ALS) and one of her sonsspooned it into her mouth as another
gave her water to wash it down. [Why is an oncologist “treating” neurology patients?]
Barbiturates used have onset of action 10-15 min., duration of action 4 hours, but several deaths reported <5 minutes or >12 hours after ingestion. What did they die from?
At an international PAS euthanasia conference in Toronto, volunteers with the Client Support Program of Compassion and Choices (formerly the Hemlock Society) admit that they are trained to actively assist someclients in taking their own lives.
Patrick Matheny (Oregon) with ALS was unable to swallow the lethal drug, so brother-in-law “helped him,” but was unwilling to describe the type of “help”; he was not prosecuted.
After Matheny case, Oregon Deputy Attorney General wrote an opinion that the law may violate the ADA because it precludes “equal access,” and thus may have to be expanded to lethal injection.
Barbara Coombs Lee, one of the authors of the bill, wrote in the Oregon Health Law Manual that delivery of drug by inhalation or infusion might be “within the scope of the Act.”
In the cases cited above, the “assistance” given or proposed goes far beyond the prescribing of an overdose of barbiturates and approaches voluntary euthanasia.
Oregon’s Deputy Attorney General has written that the law violates the Americans with Disabilities Act because it does not permit the overdose to be given by injection. Barbara Coombs Lee, one of the Oregon bill’s authors, maintains that it does in fact permit exactly that. If a disabled person who cannot self-administer the drugs has a right to a lethal injection given by someone else and if the current law is being interpreted to accommodate that “right”, is it not true that euthanasia is already being performed under the guise of assisted suicide?
A 2000 article from The New England Journal of Medicine, quoted at http://euthanasia.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000190
states that assisted suicide failures sometimes result in Dutch doctors’ deciding to euthanize their patients . In the Netherlands both assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal.
Complications occurred in 7 percent of cases of assisted suicide, and problems with completion (a longer-than-expected time to death, failure to induce coma, or induction of coma followed by awakening of the patient) occurred in 16 percent of the cases… The physician decided to administer a lethal medication in 21 of the cases of assisted suicide (18 percent), which thus became cases of euthanasia. The reasons for this decision included problems with completion (in 12 cases) and the inability of the patient to take all the medications (in 5)…
Again, True Dignity Vermont asserts that the line between assisted suicide and euthanasia, which has not held in Oregon, will not hold anywhere.