Groundbreaking study links legal 'assisted dying' to an increase in suicide rates

Media Release - October 7, 2015

Some advocates claim that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide (PAS), also known by the euphemisms 'assisted dying' and 'end of life choice', could lead to a reduction in total suicides and delay suicides that do occur. Until recently these claims had not been tested by research.

A groundbreaking study published in this week’s Southern Medical Journal counters these claims. The study examined the association between the legalisation of assisted suicide and state-level suicide rates in the United States between 1990 and 2013.

It concluded that the legalisation of physician-assisted suicide is associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides (including assisted suicides) and not at all associated with a decrease in non-assisted suicides.

“This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) non-assisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals,” the researchers concluded.

In the New Zealand context a 6.3% increase in suicide rates would represent an additional 35 deaths, based on the 2014-2015 statistics.

“I’m not at all surprised by the study's findings”, says Renee Joubert, Executive Officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. “Assisted suicide laws communicate the message that the deliberate ending of one’s life is an acceptable solution to life’s problems.”

“There is essentially no difference between suicide and ‘assisted dying’, apart from the number of people involved in the act. Suicide is a person ending their own life without help from anyone else. Assisted suicide, by definition, is a person ending their own life with the help of someone else. Both result in premature death. 
“The slogans employed to justify 'assisted dying' also apply to suicide. Suicidal people may also feel they are ‘suffering unbearably’ and without hope. They may also feel it’s ‘their body, their choice’ and that they want to ‘choose when to die’. They may also feel they are exercising their ‘right to die’. Indeed, rights apply to everyone, regardless of health status or age.

“'Assisted dying’ slogans are counter-productive to our quest to lower the suicide rate in New Zealand,” says Ms Joubert.

The Health Select Committee is currently investigating the legalisation of 'assisted dying' within the wider context of suicide. More information about how to make a submission is available at suicideinquiry.nz.

Labour Party drops euthanasia bill in New Zealand

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Euthanasia-Free NZ congratulates Labour leader Andrew Little and MP Iain Lees-Galloway for resisting sponsorship of the ex-Maryan Street voluntary euthanasia bill.

The End-of-Life Choice Bill proposes legal assisted suicide and euthanasia for anyone over 18 who has either a terminal condition which could end their life in 12 months, or an irreversible physical or mental medical condition that the person feels makes their life unbearable. It would effectively legalise euthanasia for anyone with a chronic physical or mental illness, disability, ageing-related condition or any condition for which a person refuses further treatment. 

"Public support for voluntary euthanasia is overestimated and based on unscientific online polls that ask an uninformed public to respond to leading questions couched in euphemisms”, says Renée Joubert, executive officer of Euthanasia-Free NZ. 

“Hence, many people confuse “assisted dying” (a euphemism) with switching off life support, withdrawing or refusing treatment and ‘do-not-resuscitate’ orders. However, euthanasia actually involves a doctor administering lethal drugs by injection in a way similar to overseas executions. Assisted suicide involves a person swallowing lethal drugs prescribed by their doctor.”

Link to the full article

Assisted suicide 'a stepping stone'

By Renee Joubert

I know first-hand how painful it is to watch a loved one deteriorate and die.

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However, I feel frustrated by the emphasis the current assisted suicide debate puts on the terminally ill.

Rhetoric about how the terminally ill need assisted dying is only a way to manipulate our emotions and soften up society for the real agenda: legal assisted suicide for everyone. The pro-euthanasia lobby wants suicide to be regarded as normal, acceptable and rational. Their only objection is that "suicide is violent" - not that it's to be prevented and discouraged in principle. In fact, it should be facilitated for anyone who "wants to die".

Recently euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke appealed his medical deregistration in response to his involvement in the suicide of a 45-year old depressed but healthy man. Nitschke's lawyer said in his opening address, the case was about "the dangerous idea [of] whether a person who is contemplating rational suicide ought to be required by a medical doctor not to do so".

He implied that if a person had a good reason to want to die, a doctor should not intervene.

Link to the full article.