Psychiatrist: Assisted suicide - More than meets the eye

Dr Steven King

Dr Steven King

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

An article written by Psychiatrist, Dr Steven King, and published in the Psychiatric Times examines assisted suicide from a scientific point of view.

King begins his article by stating that he is not religious and he is not pro-life, that his concerns are based on science.

I am not a Catholic nor do I have any particularly strong religious beliefs. I am strongly pro–abortion rights and believe that adults should be able to marry whomever they wish regardless of gender. I also believe that it is highly unethical for physicians to impose their religious or political views on their patients and allow these to affect how they care for them. However, I do have major concerns about the RTD laws. 
My concerns are based on science, not religion. As a pain medicine specialist and psychiatrist, I believe that the already existing laws and those that have been proposed have major holes that could result in people requesting death because of potentially treatable health problems.

King examines the assisted suicide laws based on their inability to protect depressed patients.

Link to the full article

The Supreme Court of Canada was wrong on assisted dying

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

For several years the Oregon suicide statistics seemed to indicate that legalizing assisted suicide had a suicide contagion effect. 

The assisted suicide lobby argue that legalizing assisted suicide prevents desperate people from dying by suicide and they argue that legalizing assisted suicide enables people to live longer because they do not need to die earlier by suicide in order to be capable of causing their own death. The second argument was wrongly accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision.

The data is clear. A study published by the Southern Medical Association (October 2015) concludes:

Legalizing PAS has been associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states and no decrease in nonassisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) nonassisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals.

The study examined the suicide rates in Oregon, Washington State, Montana and Vermont, where assisted suicide is permitted.

Link to the full article

Washington State annual report: Assisted suicide deaths continue to rise

Alex Schadenberg

Alex Schadenberg

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

In 2014, 126 people reportedly died by assisted suicide in Washington State. This is up by 6% from 119 assisted suicide deaths in 2013, a 43% increase from 83 assisted suicide deaths in 2012.

According to the annual report, there were 176 lethal prescriptions written resulting in 126 assisted suicide deaths, 17 deaths from other causes, 27 deaths from an unknown cause and 6 people remain alive.

The annual report states that they do not know whether or not the 27 deaths from "unknown causes" resulted from assisted suicide.

In the Netherlands up to 23% of the assisted deaths are not reported. In Belgium the percentage of unreported assisted deaths is even higher

Thus, it would not be surprising if 20% of the assisted suicide deaths in Washington State are not reported.

A broader number of illnesses are leading to assisted suicide. The Washington State report indicated that assisted deaths from other illnesses tripled. The report did not list what other illnesses represented but in Oregon other illnesses includes diabetes.

The "safeguard" restricting lethal drugs to people who are terminally ill (within six months of death) may not be closely followed. The annual report states that: 1 person in 2009, 1 person in 2010, 1 person in 2011 and 4 people in 2013 who received lethal drugs may be alive today.

Link to the full article

The Oklahoman news rejects assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Aaron Kheriaty

Aaron Kheriaty

The Oklahoman Editorial Board, on July 20,  published a position opposing assisted suicide under the title: Laws allowing assisted suicide can have far-reaching impact

The Oklahoman focuses on the research by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist who is director of the Program in Medical Ethics at the University of California Irvine. Dr Kheriaty sent a letter to California lawmakers explaining how assisted suicide laws can lead to death to a far wider and often healthier population. California lawmakers recently debated assisted suicide bill SB 128.

The Oklahoman reported that Kheriaty wrote:

“The desire to end one’s life, or the request for assisted suicide, is almost always a cry for help,” 
“It is a distress signal indicating that something in the patient’s situation is not adequately being attended to — an untreated clinical depression, fear or anxiety about the future or about one’s medical condition, untreated or under-treated pain, family or relationship strain or conflict, and so on.”

Kheriaty wrote in his letter:

80 percent to 90 percent of suicides are associated with clinical depression or other treatable mental disorders, “including for individuals at the end-of-life and individuals with a terminal condition.” 

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

Montana House passes bill to stop assisted suicide

By Alex Schadenberg, International Chair - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Montana House

Montana House

Montana came one step closer to closing the door on assisted suicide. Yesterday, the Montana House passed House Bill 477, a bill that includes physician-assisted suicide within the current state law that prohibits "aiding or soliciting suicide."

For the past few years Montana has faced a confusing situation with respect to assisted suicide. In 2009, the Baxter court decision declared that Montana citizens had a right to assisted suicide. This decision was appealed to the Supreme Court in Montana that decided that Montana citizens do not have a right to assisted suicide. The Court did not overturn the statute protecting Montana citizens from assisted suicide, but the Court did grant a tightly worded defense of consent, if a physician was prosecuted for assisted suicide.

Therefore physician-assisted suicide remains illegal in Montana, if prosecuted, a physician could use a defense of consent.

According to the Revalli Republic news Rep. Jerry Bennett, the sponsor of the bill, stated that the bill faces a final vote today before it can advance to the Montana Senate. Bennett stated:

Montana already has a high suicide rate, and that in Oregon, which allows assisted suicide, the suicide rate is much higher than the national average.

Senate Bill 202, a bill that would have legalized assisted suicide in Montana was defeated last month at the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Isn't assisted suicide really suicide?

By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Yesterday Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister in the UK, announced at a mental health conference, the government's intention to reduce suicide to zero by working in cooperation with every part of the National Health Service and other agencies.

According to The Telegraph news, Clegg is modeling this suicide prevention program on the successful program that was implemented in Detroit Michigan. The article stated:

... every suicide is preventable if NHS trusts provide better care for people suffering from depression and other serious illnesses. 
The “zero suicides” target can be met through simple measures, such as keeping in touch with patients who have been discharged from mental health wards and creating a plan so that patients and their friends know whom to contact if they are placing themselves in danger. 
Police and transport agencies will be called on to examine whether safety measures can be put in place in “hot zones” where high numbers of suicides occur, such as shopping centres or bridges. 
The plans have been inspired by a mental health programme in Detroit, US, where a “zero suicide” commitment resulted in no-one in the care of state depression services taking their lives in two years.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition and similar organizations encourages the UK government to implement a goal of ending suicide. We recognize that suicide is 100% preventable.

Link to the full article