A recent AP article regarding the initiated measure seeking to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia in South Dakota demonstrates a gross misunderstanding of what that measure says and does. The article describes the measure as being limited to voluntary suicide for people at the end of life. That’s not true. It also applies to people with years or decades to live. The measure is stacked against the patient and a recipe for elder abuse.
The measure is now in the signature gathering stage. I urge you to protect yourselves and those you care about by not signing the petition. Regardless if you support or oppose the morality of assisted-suicide and euthanasia, the text of the measure is deceptive and dangerous.
Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
Assisted suicide occurs when a person supplies another person with the means and/or information to commit suicide. If a doctor is involved, the event may be termed “physician-assisted suicide.” Euthanasia, by contrast, is the direct administration of a lethal agent to kill another person.
States Push Back
This year, the South Dakota legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 11, opposing physician-assisted suicide. The vote was nearly unanimous with just four dissenting votes.
Last year, the New Mexico Supreme Court overturned a lower court decision that had recognized a right to physician aid in dying, meaning physician-assisted suicide. Physician-assisted suicide is no longer legal in New Mexico.
In the last six years, five other states have strengthened their laws against assisted suicide. Those states are Arizona, Louisiana, Georgia, Idaho and Ohio.
Years or Decades to Live
The initiated measure is based on a similar law in Oregon, one of the few states where assisted suicide is legal. The measure applies to people with a “terminal disease,” which is expected to produce death within six months. In Oregon, the six months to live is determined without treatment. Similarly, the South Dakota measure excludes language that requires treatment. This is significant for people with chronic conditions who are thereby rendered “terminal” if without their medications they have less than six months to live. This includes people with insulin dependent diabetes. In a recent declaration, Oregon doctor William Toffler explained:
[P]eople with chronic conditions are “terminal” [for the purpose of Oregon’s law] if without their medications, they have less than six months to live. This is significant when you consider that a typical insulin-dependent 20 year-old will live less than a month without insulin.
Dr. Toffler adds:
Such persons, with insulin, are likely to have decades to live. In fact, most diabetics have a normal life span given appropriate control of their blood sugar.
Doctors can also be wrong about life expectancy due to actual mistakes and because predicting life expectancy is not an exact science. In 2014, a CBS News article described “12 million Americans misdiagnosed each year.” There are, regardless, always some people beat the odds. Consider, for example, John Norton, who testified before the Massachusetts legislature in 2012. A person with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), he had been told at age 18 that he would die in three to five years from paralysis. The day he testified, he was 74 years old. The disease progression had stopped on its own.
Finally, consider Jeanette Hall of Oregon, who had made a settled decision to use Oregon’s law. Her doctor encouraged her to be treated instead. In a 2016 declaration, she states:
This July, it will be 16 years since my diagnosis. If [my doctor] had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.
The initiated measure will encourage people with years or decades to live to throw away their lives.
The Measure Will Create a Perfect Crime
Elder abuse is a prevalent and largely hidden problem throughout the United States, including South Dakota. Perpetrators are often family members who start out with small crimes, such as stealing jewelry and blank checks, before moving on to larger items or to coercing victims to change their wills or to liquidate their assets. Perpetrators can also be calculating criminals. Victims are sometimes murdered.
If the initiated measure is enacted, the problem will be made worse through the creation of a perfect crime. The easiest problem to see is the complete lack of oversight at the death.
Once the lethal dose is issued by the pharmacy, there is no supervision over administration of the lethal dose. No witness, not even a doctor is required to be present at the death. If the patient objected or struggled, who would know?
But there’s more. Once the death occurs, the death certificate is required to list a terminal disease as the cause of death. The official cause of death is a terminal disease (not murder) as a matter of law. More to the point, a perpetrator cannot be prosecuted for murder: The measure will create the perfect crime.
Protect yourselves, your friends and your families. Don’t sign the petition.
For more information, go to http://www.choiceillusion.org/2017/05/south-dakota-initiated-measure-stacked.html