Thursday, March 22, 2007

Assisted suicide debate rears its head again in California

Last month, California legislators once again introduced a bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide. This is a very bad idea, for reasons I previously described here.

The LA Times article speaks glowingly about the report published several weeks ago by Oregon's Department of Health and Human Services that ostensibly describes how the "Death with Dignity"/assisted suicide law is being used. (Click here to see the report, and here to read an Oregonian article covering its release.)

The DHS report is very short compared to the ones done initially in the '90s, when the law first went into effect - there's even less information and documentation than the (minimal) amount in the first ones. Nevertheless, here are some questions that come to mind:

First, the report states that "forty physicians wrote the 65 prescriptions." Hm. That means the docs who wrote them and the folks who took them don't map one-to-one; i.e., the prescriptions weren't written by each patient's regular doctor. This also means there were some physicians who wrote multiple lethal prescriptions. Are suicide-minded patients are starting to seek out doctors they've heard are sympathetic to the cause?

Further down: "Complications were reported in four patients during 2006; they all regurgitated some of the medication." What happened to them? Did they recover? Did they die of natural causes? Did they try suicide again? Did they "need help" to make sure they died? The report doesn't say.

And, "During 2006, 10 referrals were made to the Board of Medical Examiners (BME) for incorrectly completed reporting forms. The BME found no violations of “good faith compliance” with the Act..." What the ____ happened here? What sorts of errors were on these forms - incomplete/omitted information? Information that could shed some light on who did what in the patient's room on the day of death, perhaps? If medical records are legal documents (which they are), why was no one disciplined for poor medical recordkeeping? Are we playing a game of "don't ask, don't tell" here?

Whatever your opinion may be about physician-assisted suicide, you should realize the medical aspects of this stink to high heaven. And they attack the senses of the spirit, just like the stench of abortion.

For more information, visit the website of Physicians for Compassionate Care.