Leading National Euthanasia-Assisted Suicide Groups Plan Merger

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 28, 2004   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Leading National Euthanasia-Assisted Suicide Groups Plan Merger

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
June 28, 2004

Portland, OR (LifeNews.com) — Two leading pro-assisted suicide groups plan to merge to become one powerful entity. The plan has pro-life groups concerned that the newly formed group will more aggressively attempt to make assisted suicide legal in many more states.

The boards of Compassion in Dying and End of Life Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society, have discussed combining budgets, fundraising, political strategy and other issues, according to a Portland Oregonian report.

Leaders on both sides recently met in Denver and they are looking at consolidating the organizations into one entity soon.

Thus far, the merged organization is calling itself Compassion and Choices.

Compassion in Dying has primarily been an advocate for the Oregon law allowing assisted suicide — the first of its kind in the United States and one of the first laws in the world allowing doctors to help their patients kill themselves.

"There’s a huge overlap between the two groups," Claire Simons, a spokeswoman for CID told the Associated Press. "We have very similar agendas."

"We’re tired of being the sprouts-chewing liberals out in Oregon," she admitted. "We need another state" to legalize assisted suicide.

Pro-life advocates say the combined organization would increase the political clout and strength of the nation’s euthanasia advocates and are calling on the pro-life community to redouble its efforts to stop additional states from legalizing assisted suicide.

"Until recently, Hemlock operated on the margins of the law, stressing pro-death counseling services and instructions," explains Tom Marzen, a pro-life attorney who monitors end of life issues. "Compassion stressed working through the law, as with the Oregon pro-assisted suicide law and cases it brought trying to legalize the practice."

Marzen told LifeNews.com that the joining of the two groups, "probably means they are retooling and restructuring for an effort to win hearts and minds, especially in the medical professions and state legislatures."

David Brand, executive director of End-of-Life Choices, expressed the concern pro-life groups have.

"Nirvana, for us, would be to replicate the Oregon law in other states," Brand told the Portland newspaper.

"Pro-lifers had best take a page from their lesson book and form strong alliances with those especially threatened by euthanasia — older people and people with disabilities," Marzen concluded.

As a merged entity, Compassion in Dying would lend its know-how from successfully passing the assisted suicide law in Oregon and winning a voter initiative to keep the law in place. End of Life Choices would lend its national identity and membership list.

End of Life Choices was founded by Derek Humphry, author of a how-to euthanasia book called Final Exit that has sold more than one million copies. The group dropped the Hemlock Society moniker last year in order to enhance its public relations efforts.

Humphry has said the political climate isn’t hospitable to adding additional states to the assisted suicide rolls. He’s right.

Oregon is the only state to have legalized assisted suicide. Attempts to allow it have been defeated in Michigan, Maine, Wyoming and Hawaii.

Michigan voters disapproved a ballot proposal by a wide margin and in Maine, where it was expected to be approved, voters disagreed. Wyoming legislators swiftly killed a kill to legalize the grisly practice and Hawaii has twice avoided efforts to legalize it.

In Vermont, legislative leaders decided not to address the issue after their governor, state medical association and several organizations, including disabilities groups, voiced opposition to the measure.

Some 171 Oregon residents have ended their lives since the Oregon law took effect. Pro-life advocates have pointed to a number of abuses and poor reporting under the law.