New York Bills Legalizing Assisted Suicide Would Allow Euthanizing Patients Without Consent

State   Choice is an Illusion   Dec 16, 2015   |   11:04AM    Albany, NY

Attorney Margaret Dore, president of Choice is an Illusion, which has fought assisted suicide legalization efforts in many states and now New York, made the following statement in connection with a New York State Bar Association continuing legal education event. The event, held today, featured the topic, “Aid in Dying,” a traditional euphemism for euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“There are currently two New York State proposals, Bill 2129A and Bill 5261B,” said Dore. “They are sold as giving people an ‘end of life option. Both bills are instead about ending the lives of people who aren’t necessarily dying anytime soon, and giving other people the ‘option’ to hurry them along.”

Dore, an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal, explained, “In my law practice, I started out working in guardianships, wills and probate, and saw abuse of all kinds, especially where there was money involved (where there’s a will, there are heirs). Then, in 2008, I got dragged to a meeting about our assisted suicide law and saw the perfect crime: your heir could help sign you up, and once the lethal dose was in the house, there was no oversight. Not even a witness is required. If you resisted or even struggled, who would know?” She added, “The New York bills have the same problem.”

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“If enacted, the New York bills will allow assisted suicide (or euthanasia) without consent,” Dore said. “And in case I’m being too subtle, the drugs used are water and alcohol soluble, such that they can be injected into a restrained or sleeping person. After the person dies, the death certificate is REQUIRED to reflect a natural death. It’s the perfect crime.”

The New York proposals and Washington’s law are both based on a similar law in Oregon.

Dore has had two clients whose fathers signed up for the lethal dose in Washington and Oregon, respectively. “In the first case, one side of the family wanted the father to take the lethal dose, while the other did not. He spent the last months of his life caught in the middle and traumatized over whether or not he should kill himself.  My client, his adult child, was also traumatized. The father did not take the lethal dose and died a natural death.”

In the other case, Dore said “It’s not clear that administration of the lethal dose was voluntary. A man who was present told my client that his father refused to take the lethal dose when it was delivered (‘You’re not killing me.  I’m going to bed’), but that he took it the following night when he was intoxicated on alcohol.”

The New York proposals, like the Washington and Oregon laws, seek to legalize assisted suicide for people who are “terminal,” which is defined as a doctor’s prediction of less than six months to live. In real life, such persons can have years, even decades to live.

“Doctors can be wrong about life expectancy, sometimes way wrong,” Dore said. “This is due to actual mistakes: They evaluated another patient’s test results. More typically, however, doctors are wrong because predicting life expectancy is not an exact science. A few years ago, I was picked up at the airport by a man who at age 18 had been diagnosed with ALS, and given 3 to 5 years to live, at which time he was predicted to die by paralysis. The diagnosis had been had been confirmed by the Mayo Clinic. When he picked me up, he was 74 years old. The disease progression had stopped on its own.”

“If either one of the New York proposals become law, people with years, even decades to live, will be encouraged to throw away their lives; patients and their families will be traumatized,” said Dore. “These bills, as written, will, regardless, allow the perfect crime.  Even if you like the concept of assisted suicide and euthanasia, the proposed New York bills have it all wrong.”

For background information, see:

1.  Margaret K. Dore, “‘Death with Dignity’: What Do We Advise Our Clients?,” King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009, https://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=05&Year=2009&AID=article5.htm

2.  Nina Shapiro, “Terminal Uncertainty: Washington’s new “Death With Dignity” law allows doctors to help people commit suicide—once they’ve determined that the patient has only six months to live. But what if they’re wrong?,” 01/14/09, The Seattle Weekly available at https://choiceisanillusion.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/terminal-uncertainty-w-o-ad.pdf

3.  Susan Donaldson James, “Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon,” ABC News, August 6, 2008, at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1

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