“60 Minutes” - and the selling of assisted suicide

Nancy Valko

Nancy Valko

This article was published by Nancy Valko on her website on March 16, 2016

By Nancy Valko

In the March 13, 2016 TV “60 Minutes” segment titled “Aid in Dying” (re-titled: “Should the terminally ill control how they die?” in theonline transcript, the vaunted investigative news show crossed the line from presenting facts to enthusiastic advocacy.

The stage was set when medical correspondent Dr. John LaPook, an internist and son-in-law of liberal activist Norman Lear, opened the segment by stating:

This is not euthanasia, when a doctor gives a patient a lethal injection. That’s illegal in all 50 states. Aid-in-dying, or what opponents call “assisted suicide”and supporters call “death with dignity,” relies on people taking the medication themselves. Oregon became the first state to legalize it 18 years ago, but because a nurse or doctor is rarely present, it’s remained mostly a private affair, practiced behind closed doors. We wanted to hear from patients and family members who’ve experienced it and are fighting to make it legal nationwide.

If you go to the link for the transcript, you will also see “related videos” with segment extras not included on the TV show.

One titled “ethical concerns” is an interview with Dr. Katrina Hedberg, state epidemiologist of the Oregon Public Health Division, to discuss “ethical concerns raised by her state sanctioning aid-in-dying”. Not surprisingly, Dr. Hedberg strenuously denies that assisted suicide is a danger for the “disenfranchised” or for medical economic or family burden reasons. Instead, she says “the opposite has happened” despite cases like Barbara Wagner’s.

In the segment extra “How does the medicine work?”, the assisted suicide doctor explains that the medicine simply just “shuts off the brain” starting “at the top” where consciousness is and then goes to “the bottom” of the brain where heartbeat and breathing occur. Not a very accurate or scientific explanation but designed to reassure the public.

Link to the full article

John Kelly: Second Thoughts Against California Assisted Suicide Bill.

This letter was published by California Against Assisted Suicide on September 7, 2015.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

John Kelly is the Director of the disability rights group, Second Thoughts.

Assembly member:

I hope you will have second thoughts about legalizing assisted suicide in California. Now especially that the California Medical Association secured the removal of any liability clause from  AB2x 15, in the words of the committee staff’s analysis (see page 17), “wanton misconduct” and “gross negligence” will go unpunished.

The replacement clause, that professional licensing boards “may sanction” professional misconduct, is toothless. As we have seen across society, self-interested institutions cannot be trusted to police themselves. Please see the case of Wendy Melcher, who was illegally injected with lethal drugs by two Oregon nurses, completely outside the scope of the law. The nurses were not referred for prosecution, but were secretly dealt with by the state nursing board. The nurses continue to practice today. 

In important ways assisted suicide laws are like death penalty laws: innocent people inevitably lose their lives. A strong consensus is now emerging against the death penalty because mistakes (witness misidentification, false confession) and abuse of the system (prosecutorial and police misconduct) lead to wrongful convictions and executions.

Mistakes and abuse in the medical system are common. People who are misdiagnosed (see John Norton), people who would respond to more treatment ( Jeanette Hall), or who would live years longer  (some participants in Oregon have lived almost 3 years after being judged “terminal”) will be led to tragically “choose” death. Assisted suicide programs have offered lethal drugs to patients with severe depression (Michael Freeland) and to people denied treatment (Barbara Wagner). And because not all families are loving or financially secure, innocent people will be bullied or worse by abusive families and beneficiaries.

Link to the full article

Follow the Money: Oregon pays for assisted suicide but not suicide prevention for adults

Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Bioethicist, lawyer and cultural commentator, Wesley Smith, examines the Oregon policy of paying for assisted suicide in an article that was published, today, in the Weekly Standard.

In his article, Smith first comments on the celebration of Brittany Maynard's death, that became a massive campaign by the assisted suicide lobby, as compared to the near silence surrounding the life and death of Lauren Hill, who had the same condition but choose to live, continue to play basketball on her college team and raise money to fight cancer.

Smith examines the policies that have led to 859 Oregonians dying by assisted suicide, a state that also has the second highest "other suicide" rate that is 41% higher than the national average. Smith states:

A government’s priorities dictate its spending choices. Oregon uses federal and state money for youth suicide prevention. But even though one in five suicides in Oregon occurs among “older adults,” the anti-assisted-suicide Physicians for Compassionate Care found that the Oregon Health Authority does not fund adult suicide prevention services. As an OHA bureaucrat responded when answering an inquiry from a state legislator, “Staff resources to work on older adult suicide development have not been developed in OHA.” 

Link to the full article

Assisted Suicide is bad medicine.

By Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden

Why, when listing opponents, did The Sacramento Bee editorial pushing an assisted-suicide law ignore the disability community? (“Give the dying the right to pick how and when to die”: Editorials, Oct. 26) We could be those most affected.

As a disability-rights advocate and person living with a disability, I know our concerns aren’t just “fear-mongering.” Rather, legalizing assisted-suicide is a direct threat to our community as well as to the elderly, people with chronic illness and others marginalized by society.

The Oregon assisted-suicide experiment has major problems.

When Oregonian Barbara Wagner was prescribed chemotherapy for aggressive lung cancer, the Oregon health plan refused to cover it. They offered, instead, among other things, to pay for her assisted suicide. Randy Stroup, another Oregonian with cancer, received a similar denial. Is there any wonder why? Treating people with terminal or chronic illness is expensive. At roughly $300, assisted suicide is the cheapest “treatment.”

Direct coercion is not even necessary. Denying, or even merely delaying, expensive, life-sustaining treatment can drive patients toward assisted suicide. It is a deadly mix with our cost-driven health care system.

This is partly why every major disability organization taking a position opposes legalizing assisted suicide.

Link to the full article.

The Danger of Assisted Suicide laws

By Marilyn Golden,  senior policy analyst with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

Marilyn Golden

Marilyn Golden

My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard, who is dying of brain cancer and who wrote last week about her desire for what is often referred to as "death with dignity."

Yet while I have every sympathy for her situation, it is important to remember that for every case such as this, there are hundreds -- or thousands -- more people who could be significantly harmed if assisted suicide is legal.

The legalization of assisted suicide always appears acceptable when the focus is solely on an individual. But it is important to remember that doing so would have repercussions across all of society, and would put many people at risk of immense harm. After all, not every terminal prognosis is correct, and not everyone has a loving husband, family or support system.

Link to the full article

Assisted suicide is not legal in Montana, not the answer

By Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

The following article was published by the Missoulian Newspaper on August 21, 2014.

Barbara Wagner

Barbara Wagner

I take exception to the opinion by two members of the former Hemlock Society, now known as “Compassion & Choices.” The opinion of July 25 implies that assisted suicide is legal in Montana, which is not true.

I am the president of Montanans Against Assisted Suicide. We are in litigation against the Montana Medical Examiners Board. As part of that litigation, we got the board to remove a position paper from its website implying that assisted suicide is legal. Assisted suicide is not legal.

Read More: http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.ca/2014/08/assisted-suicide-is-not-legal-in.html