Since I last wrote, two more states, Hawaii and Maine, rejected bills that would have allowed doctors to prescribe fatal doses of drugs to people who want to end their own lives.
Maine’s rejection just came yesterday. In a news article (see below), Democrat Representative Gay Grant said the Assisted Suicide Bill “is the wrong direction for a variety of reasons” and that “this is not a partisan issue. It is a human issue.”
The bipartisan vote was 85-61 vote against the bill.
Republican Representative Deborah Sanderson said that “these bills are sold as having a voluntary patient choice, however there is no physician present when these pills are taken, how do we know there is choice at the end when they self-administer? I think we would be naïve to imagine that every family is perfect and there may not be an occasion for an alternative motive, an inheritance or financial gain.”
She is exactly right. The bill is poorly drafted, with way too much potential for abuse.
This is a bill about life and death. If South Dakotan’s want to consider allowing doctors to prescribe fatal doses, it should be through a tightly drafted bill, not one crafted with language that is both defective and deceptive.
For example, the South Dakota Measure provides the assurance of “self-administration” seven times. However, since there is no requirement for a witness, this is little more than a marketing trick. Without a witness, so-called safeguards are eviscerated.
The proponents of the measure market it as “patient choice.” In other words, according to the proponents, it should be a patient’s choice to live or die. However, without the requirement of a witness to honor and secure the patient’s choice, how do we know that death truly is the patient’s choice? How do we know the patient didn’t change his or her mind after receiving the lethal dose? As Rep. Sanderson says, “I think we would be naïve to imagine that every family is perfect and there may not be an occasion for an alternative motive, an inheritance or financial gain.”
Without a witness, the measure allows exploitation of every adult over the age of 18 via stealth euthanasia.
This nontransparent Oregon-model assisted suicide initiative ignores patient choice by empowering others, including predator heirs, while at the same time provides language that provides them immunity from prosecution.
The language is also a problem since it allows a stranger who claims to know how a patient communicates to speak for them throughout the process; and has no requirement that a patient inform a family member of their decision.
This Initiated Measure is not the one if you want a person’s “choice” to be honored.
The best choice for South Dakotans is not to sign the petition.
Maine House rejects ‘death with dignity’ bill
AUGUSTA – House lawmakers rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have allowed doctors to prescribe fatal doses of medication to terminally ill patients who want to end their own lives.
The bipartisan 85-61 vote against the bill followed lengthy and oftentimes emotional debate among lawmakers sharing personal stories of watching loved ones battle terminal diseases. The so-called “death with dignity” bill had passed the Maine Senate by a single vote last week but faced a potential veto from Gov. Paul LePage even if it had passed the House.
“My conscience tells me that this is the wrong direction for a variety of reasons,” said Rep. Gay Grant, D-Gardiner. “This is not a partisan issue. It is a human issue.”
Sponsored by Republican Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, the bill would allow patients with an “incurable and irreversible disease” and whose life expectancy is six months or less to request a fatal dosage of prescription drugs. The individual would have to make the request on two separate occasions separated by 15 days and, after the second conversation with the doctor, to put the request in writing witnessed by two unrelated, independent individuals. The physician, in turn, would be obligated to document those requests as well as the patient’s medical prognosis.
The bill, L.D. 347, would also provide liability protection to doctors and pharmacists who prescribe or dispense the drugs but would not allow anyone else to physically assist in the administration of the drugs.
“I think this proposal has been thoughtfully crafted and allows the peace of mind that we can have control over our own life,” said Rep. Christopher Babbidge, D-Kennebunk. “Just as you and I have control today, we don’t surrender it at the end of life. It’s about freedom.”
Supporters talked about watching friends or family being forced to endure long and painful deaths because Maine is not among the five states, plus Washington, D.C., that allow a practice sometimes described as “physician assisted suicide.”
Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, recalled a close friend of his who chronicled his own battle with terminal, aggressive colon cancer and his ultimate decision to end his life. Although a native Mainer, the friend lived in Washington – one of the “death with dignity” states – and was able to choose the time and place of his death with his family around him.
“Ethan died, in the end, in the way he chose to die,” Berry said. “Because he did not live in his home state, he had the choice.”
But opponents warned that allowing physician-assisted suicide could lead to an increase in elder abuse or a spike in youth suicides if the state is perceived as sanctioning ending one’s own life.
“These bills are sold as having a voluntary patient choice, however there is no physician present when these pills are taken,” said Rep. Deborah Sanderson, R-Chelsea. “How do we know there is choice at the end when they self administer? I think we would be naive to imagine that every family is perfect and there may not be an occasion for an alternative motive, an inheritance or financial gain.”
Rep. Chad Wayne Grignon, R-Athens, recalled how his opinion on the issue was changed after his own cancer diagnosis at age 39. Grignon said even proposing the option of assisted suicide to someone suffering from pain and disease could affect their will to fight the disease.
“Ten years ago, most cancers, including the one I now have, was a death sentence,” Grignon said. “Today, with technology, those (prospects) are changing. We come into this world in pain, screaming and fighting for air. I believe this is part of the natural order. I plan on leaving without a government-sanctioned option of leaving early.”
The bill could face additional votes but is likely to die between the two legislative chambers.