Assisted Suicide Advocates Accused of Exploiting Hurricane Katrina

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 16, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Assisted Suicide Advocates Accused of Exploiting Hurricane Katrina

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 16, 2005

Portland, OR ( — Abortion advocates have already come under fire for exploiting Hurricane Katrina victims with free abortions and a plea for money to fund abortion centers. Now, pro-life advocates say those who back assisted suicide are using a news story about euthanasia in New Orleans to promote their cause.

As doctors fled the city of New Orleans, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and overcome by looters, chaos and disease, a leading British newspaper says doctors treating severely wounded patient euthanized them rather than transport them to another facility for additional treatment.

Barbara Coombs Lee, president of the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion & Choices, released a statement saying it doesn’t condone euthanasia but thinks assisted suicide would be beneficial.

"Compassion & Choices does not advocate legalization of euthanasia and does not condone it," Lee said.

"Our nation needs compassionate laws that clarify a patient’s right to choose a humane and dignified death in extraordinary circumstances," Lee added. "A policy of denial exists everywhere except Oregon, where assisted dying is regulated by law."

Marilyn Golden of the Disability Rights, Education and Defense Fund, a group opposing assisted suicide and euthanasia, said it was wrong for Lee to use the news of the euthanasia deaths to push for assisted suicide.

"The circumstances of the New Orleans hurricane were so unusual that it is completely inappropriate to draw any general policy conclusions (about assisted suicide) from what happened," Golden said.

Californians Against Assisted Suicide, a group that has been fighting a measure in that state’s legislature to legalize assisted suicide, agreed.

"If assisted suicide advocates like Barbara Coombs Lee and others were to legalize state sanctioned assisted suicide, one can imagine the circumstances that might follow," the group said in a statement.

"For euthanasia advocates to exploit this tragedy further indicates their single-issue zealotry and inability to respond effectively to the victims of this terrible calamity without shamelessly promoting their narrow political agenda," the group added.

A doctor affiliated with the organization said legal assisted suicide would not have helped the Hurricane Katrina victims.

"Would assisted suicide have made it better on the Gulf Coast?" asks Dr. Rex Greene M.D. Instead of planning for evacuation procedures that accommodate the needs of people with disabilities or illness "would disaster relief have included the passing out of lethal overdoses to terminally ill patients who couldn’t be evacuated?"