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Standing Up For Life

Today, the Maryland General Assembly will hold a joint hearing on the Physician Assisted Suicide bills pending before the legislature. You can read the bills here and here. We at Red Maryland have been an active part of the opposition to this legislation for years and are again this year.

Here are some infographics provided by our friends at Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide detailing the problems with this legislation.  Please copy and share them on your social media accounts.

antipas info graphic1antipas info graphic2

Let’s review the details of the problems we have documented here at Red Maryland.

First, you must listen to our recent interview with Dr. Joseph Marine of Johns Hopkins Hospital who detailed many of the serious concerns the medical community has about this legislation.

DISINGENUITY OF THE PRO-SUICIDE MOVEMENT

One of the most serious concerns about this legislation has been the dishonest way it has been presented.  Supporters make the absurd claim that what the legislation permits is not even suicide. The legislation requires doctor’s to essentially lie about the cause of death on the death certificate.  This is done not only to obfuscate the reality of this legislation being about suicide but to prevent any effective oversight of the PAS regime once implemented.  We have noted the reports of the Des Moines Register and others in analyzing the effects of physician assisted suicide where it has been implemented.

The basic need of proponents to misrepresent what they are proposing raises serious questions that we posed last year:

“If advocates of physician assisted suicide are on the “side of the angels” and their cause is just, why must they rely upon such mendacity? If advocates truly want an honest debate in which all the facts are disclosed, why must they employ such Orwellian language? If physician assisted suicide is morally right and consistent with our culture’s highest values, why does it require a rewriting of millennia old medical ethics?”

PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE WARPS MEDICAL ETHICS AND UNDERMINES THE DOCTOR PATIENT RELATIONSHIP

When you listen to Dr. Marine, he speaks passionately about how this legislation violates the most basic tenants of medical ethics and the time tested fundamentals of the Hippocratic Oath.  Doctors, nurses and medical professionals do not want to contribute to the unnatural death of their patients but want to serve them by preserving their life and ameliorating their pain. As we put it previously:

Proponents of physician assisted suicide also want to avoid discussing the impact on the physician patient relationship such laws create.  Major medical organizations from the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American Nurses Association, oppose physician assisted suicide.  Medical professionals often cite the dictates and the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, the ancient promise made by doctors entering the profession, in their opposition.  The Oath provides, in part, that a physician will take care that their patients suffer no hurt or damage and that,

“Nor shall any man’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel any man to do so.”

Obviously, no doctor taking such an oath could prescribe a patient a lethal dose of medication with the intent to poison them to death.  This breach with ancient medical ethics is why so many medical professionals and organizations oppose this legislation.  It was also a major reason cited by dozens of state legislatures and the British Parliament when these bodies overwhelmingly rejected similar legislation.

The opposition of medical groups like the American Medical Association has been affirmed again this year.

It isn’t hard to imagine where the degradation of the doctor patient relationshp can lead.  We related the following story from the Netherlands recently,

In this case, the woman, who was suffering from dementia,  had earlier expressed a desire to have her life ended when she felt the “time was right”.

According to case notes, the woman, who lived in a nursing home, showed signs of fear and anger. She would also wander around the premises at night.

The end came when a doctor put a soporific into her coffee before administering a lethal injection.

But as the doctor tried to administer the injection, she began to struggle and the doctor had to seek the family’s help to complete the procedure.

The only way to prevent these types of horror stories from happening in Maryland is to avoid going down this road in the first place.

A LACK OF REAL SAFEGUARDS TO PREVENT ABUSE

One of the glaring weaknesses about this legislation that has never been corrected is the possibility of abuse. The bill envisions that a doctor will prescribe a lethal dose of medication that the patient will pick up and take themselves as they commit suicide.  But the bill does not provide any oversight in this process.  There is no requirement that the patient pick up the prescription themselves. There is no medical oversight or requirement that any medical professional or even any objective third party be present to observe the ingestion of the lethal dose of barbiturates. Nothing prevents a family member, caretaker or other from administering the lethal drugs.  The potential for abuse is obvious.

Even without the spectre of force, the abuse permitted by this legislation is terrifying.  As Dr. Marine confirmed, the number one reason people seek physician assisted suicide is that they feel that they are a burden to others.  Heirs and family members may have a financial interest in seeing the patient end their life rather than continue in expensive medical care and may exert undue influence on the patient. Nothing in the legislation addresses this or builds in any protection for vulnerable patients who may be affected in this way.

Maryland doesn’t allow such undue influence in other contexts, namely in wills, estates and inheritance.  This glaring inconsistency was pointed out by Margaret Dore, Esq., in her testimony last year. She noted specifically that

In Maryland, the Court of Appeals has identified seven elements to be considered when determining whether undue
influence exlsts ín the context of a will. In the proposed bill, however, these same factors reflect clearly permissible behavior. Undue influence, as that term is traditionally defined, is legalized by the proposed bill.

But the sad reality is that any time another human being feels that they are better off dead and chooses to kill themselves, we have failed them as a society. Promotion physician assisted suicide as a “rational” act by someone facing a terminal disease only confirms that their life does have less value and is not worthy of the protections we give to healthy people or those who are expected to live more than six months.  It is abuse of vulnerable often despairing people plain and simple.

You Will Be Made to Care and Pay

Proponents of Physician Assisted Suicide contend that is a private issue and if you do not approve you will not be affected.  It simply isn’t true.  Taxpayers in Oregon and California pay for the lethal drugs and doctor visits.  California has budgeted $2.3 million taxpayer dollars for the first year Physician Assisted Suicide is legal.  President Clinton even prohibited using federal funds to subsidize Physician Assisted Suicide, leaving the states to legalize this practice to foot the bill.

In other words, if passed, Marylanders will be paying their tax dollars to fund the suicides of their neighbors.

The Suicide Contagion

As we noted in the past,

Proponents prefer to redefine the word suicide rather than confront the facts concerning the effects legislation like this has on overall suicide rates or how it runs counter to efforts to prevent suicide generally.  As noted, California is spending millions to facilitate some committing suicide while spending tens of millions per year on suicide prevention.

We as a culture need to decide whether suicide is an evil to be address or not.

Even if you think that you favor this legislation, review the citations in this article and detailed concerns raised. Proponents have not rebutted them in detail and we doubt they will in today’s joint hearing.

I urge everyone who opposes this bill to join the Maryland Coalition Against Physician Assisted Suicide, continue to follow up here at Red Maryland and the other voices defending life and educate your friends and neighbors about this important issue.