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Why should laws grant special privileges to doctors who assist in suicides?

by | Oct 5, 2016

By Nancy Valko

Doctor with needleA May 2016 Gallup poll titled “Euthanasia Still Acceptable to Solid Majority in US” reports that now 69% of those surveyed agree that “doctors should be allowed by law to end a patient’s life by some painless means” if the person “has a disease that cannot be cured” and “if the patient and his or her family request it.” (Emphasis added)

There is also reported growing support among doctors for “medically assisted suicide.”

This is alarming but should not be surprising in view of the intense and usually one-sided portrayal of assisted suicide as “courageous” and honorable while unassisted death is routinely portrayed as agonizing to both the family and the patient.

However, there are few healthcare providers who actually want to personally participate in ending a life even when they say they support legalizing assisted suicide. This is one reason why Compassion and Choices, the former Hemlock Society, has been involved in most of the assisted suicides in Oregon and Washington.

The reluctance of most doctors and nurses to participate in assisted suicide has come about despite the unique and special protections given to healthcare providers who participate in medically assisted suicide that can actually encourage healthcare providers to participate without fear of legal consequences.

Note two of these provisions in the Oregon law :

“The Health Services shall make rules to facilitate the collection of information regarding compliance with ORS 127.800 to 127.897. Except as otherwise required by law, the information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public.” (Only “an annual statistical report of information” is made public.) (Emphasis added.)

And

No person shall be subject to civil or criminal liability or professional disciplinary action for participating in good faith compliance with ORS 127.800 to 127.897. ” (Emphasis added.)

There is also no requirement that the doctor or anyone else witness or even be present at the lethal overdose.

But why are the activists and lawyers who write these laws not challenged when they purposely omit the stringent documentation and oversight required for any other medical intervention by relying on doctors’ self-reporting the process–while also granting these doctors virtual immunity from any legal, civil or professional liability for coercion, complications, abuse, etc.?

One answer is that this allows the media and even doctors like Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel (one of the architects of Obamacare) to declare:

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer. Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices. (Emphasis added)

The second answer is that these provisions allow assisted suicide doctors (who obviously have more in common with the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian than the iconic Marcus Welby, MD of the 1970s) to privatize the death and thus prevent any real investigation, followup or even serious medical research, as well as allowing the coverup of any problems.

Apparently, nothing can be allowed to interfere with the carefully manufactured image of a kindly doctor helping a patient in excruciating pain to have a quick painless demise.

No other area of medical practice is allowed such secrecy and immunity.

Legislatures and the public need to know and challenge these outrageous provisions as well as being informed about the personal and societal dangers of assisted suicide itself. We must demand truth, transparency and accountability, especially when life and death are at stake.

Categories: Assisted Suicide