After the legal wrangling was over, all appeals had failed, and Oregon’s assisted suicide law began to result in reported deaths in 1999, the rate of non-assisted suicides in the state, which had been declining for a decade, immediately began to rise. It has continued to do so. In 2010 it was 35% over the national average (http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0909a.pdf. By 2012, it was 41% over the national average (https://www.deschutes.org/DeschutesOrg/files/33/33d5338f-6e71-49ca-b6fa-051ac3293a8b.pdf).
Washington State legalized assisted suicide in March 2009, five and a half years ago. Now we read that the non-assisted suicide rate is rising there (http://mifflin.pa.networkofcare.org/mh/news-article-detail.aspx?id=54947).
While no one writes in a suicide note that he or she is committing suicide because of having been influenced by media reports about it, the Centers for Disease Control long ago cautioned the media against romanticizing suicide because doing so may contribute to suicide contagion (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm). The existence of suicide clusters is well known and reported, and counselors are routinely sent into schools in which a student has committed suicide to try to offset the possibility of suicide contagion.
How does the media respond to the cautions about suicide reporting? This week a Seattle tv station ran an adoring piece about a woman who looks far from imminently dying when interviewed on the day before she commits suicide under Washington’s assisted suicide law (http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Death-with-Dignity-advocate-Remember-me-happy-and-alive-271113841.html?tab=video&c=y).
This story was run by a Washington media outlet 12 days after the report of rising Washington suicide rates posted above! How many vulnerable people who watch this tv spot will now think suicide is an acceptable, honorable means of ending whatever problems they have? Of course Vermont’s own pro-suicide group, Patient Choices, thought the spot was wonderful enough to post on its Facebook page, thus possibly spreading suicide contagion in our beloved state. Marnie Wood, the assisted suicide advocate whose sister, suffering from ALS, moved from VT to Oregon and committed suicide under that state’s law, has been traveling around Vermont this summer with Linda Waite-Simpson, the VT legislator who was instrumental in getting assisted suicide legalized here and who now, amazingly, as she is running for re-election, is working for the assisted suicide group, Compassion and Choices. The cited purpose of this tour is to “educate” VT doctors about how to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates and Vermont citizens about how to die prematurely by using them. Wood constantly romanticizes her sister’s suicide, in direct contravention of the CDC warning.
No one has died under the provisions of the evidently completely unneeded Vermont law, but Marnie Wood, Linda Waite-Simpson, and the advocates from Patient Choices are trying as hard as they can to make assisted suicides start happening. Everything possible includes speaking about suicide as “peaceful” and “beautiful” (http://digital.vpr.net/post/advocates-educate-doctors-and-patients-about-end-life-law). Our media is helping them make suicide seem the most attractive option for people who have been told they are dying, by doctors who may or may not be correct in their diagnosis and prognosis. They do not seem to care that it may also make suicide seem attractive to some who have no terminal diagnosis at all.
If and when the advocates, with the help of the media, succeed in finding someone to die under Act 39, we can be sure there will be a flurry of worshipful media coverage. We can also predict with some certainty that, if these deaths start happening regularly in our state (the number of assisted suicides has increased each year in Oregon and Washington), the general suicide rate will also rise, just as it has in Oregon and as it is doing in Washington.
There is only one way to stop that from happening. The media must hear of our opposition when they provide a forum for the suicide recruiters. Much more importantly, our politicians must be taught in no uncertain terms that Vermonters do not want this law. The legislature, in the next biennium, must repeal Act 39.