The Lowell Sun
Updated: 10/18/2011 09:27:53 AM EDT
This letter responds to Marie Donovan's article about the proposed Massachusetts death-with-dignity act, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide in your state (" 'Death with Dignity Act' renews end-of-life debate"). I am an attorney in Washington state, one of just two states where physician-assisted suicide is legal. The other state is Oregon. I am also president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide as an issue of public safety (www.choiceillusion.org).
In both Washington and Oregon, assisted-suicide laws were passed via highly financed sound-bite, ballot-initiative campaigns. No such law has made it through the scrutiny of a legislature -- despite more than 100 attempts. This year, a bill was defeated in the New Hampshire House, 234 to 99.
The proposed Massachusetts act is a recipe for elder abuse. Key provisions include that an heir, who will benefit financially from a patient's death, is allowed to actively help sign the patient up for the lethal dose. See e.g., Section 21 allowing one of two witnesses on the lethal-dose request form to be an heir (http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Government/2011-Petitions ).
Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no oversight over administration. The proposed act does not require that a doctor or anyone else be present at the time of death. This creates the opportunity for an heir, or another person who will benefit from the death, to administer the lethal dose to the patient without the patient's consent. Even if he struggled, who would know?
Donovan's article prominently features a discussion of religion. In Washington state, proponents used similar discussions and even religious slurs to distract voters from the pitfalls of legalization. What the proposed law said and did was all but forgotten.
Do not be deceived. /11-12.pdf
Choice is an Illusion