The recent AP article about a Vermont supporter of euthanasia’s public support for the state’s assisted suicide bill has created a need to discuss euthanasia, also known as mercy killing.
The case of Patrick Matheny, posted April 20, illustrates how permitting assisted suicide leads to euthanasia when a person cannot self-administer the lethal overdose It also shows that “helping” such a patient is often, perhaps, usually, not prosecuted, even when the “helper” goes public with what he has done.
The quote from Current Oncology, also posted April 20, documents how euthanasia, legal when requested in certain European countries, is often performed without the patient’s knowledge or consent. It is because this progression from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia has been so well-documented that the proponents of assisted suicide in the US and Vermont want us to believe it will never happen here.
In fact the Vermont assisted suicide bill does not protect patients from euthanasia.
The AP article was wrong in stating that the Vermont law requires the patient to self-administer the drug. Though the Vermont bill states that a person deemed terminally ill may request lethal medication “to be self-administered”, Margaret Dore, a legal expert, has written that no adequate protection exists unless the law states that the overdose “‘must’ be by self-administration”(www.vtbar.org/Images/Journal/journalarticles/winter2011/PhysicianAssistedSuicide.pdf). What about a patient who changes his mind after requesting the lethal prescription? The bill does not require witnesses at the time the overdose is taken. Someone else could put it into the person’s mouth, with or without his consent. As Ms. Dore writes, “Even if he struggled, who would know?”
Ms. Dore further asserts that the Oregon and Washington Acts, and Vermont’s bill, do not really prohibit euthanasia but actually protect those who might perform it. Here is the Vermont bill, Section 5298: “Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to authorize a physician or any other person to end a patient’s life by…mercy killing, or active euthanasia. Action taken in accordance with this chapter…shall not be construed for any purpose to constitute…mercy killing.” The first sentence of the section appears to prohibit euthanasia, but the second half, according to Ms. Dore’s analysis of a similar bill defeated this winter in Montana (http://www.margaretdore.com/pdf/HinkleReport.pdfm, Section D, #3), defines the prohibition away. Without a prohibition on administering it to a patient, that would certainly seem to be true.
Without a requirement for witnesses, moreover, it hardly seems to matter. How would anyone know whether the dead patient had committed suicide by taking the prescribed overdose, whether he had been euthanized voluntarily, whether he had been euthanized involuntarily by a person who had decided the patient would be better off dead, or whether, in fact, the person had been murdered by someone maliciously using the prescription?
There is a very real slippery slope from assisted suicide to euthanasia and worse.