Washington Sees First Person Die Under Second-in-Nation Assisted Suicide Law

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 22, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Washington Sees First Person Die Under Second-in-Nation Assisted Suicide Law

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
May 22
, 2009

Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — Washington has now seen the first person die under state’s the second-in-the-nation law legalizing the practice of assisted suicide. A 66-year-old woman from Sequim named Linda Fleming died Thursday night after taking a lethal cocktail prescribed to her by a physician under the law.

Voters in the Pacific Northwest state approved the assisted suicide measure on the ballot in 2008 and the pro-euthanasia group Compassion & Choices announced Fleming’s death Friday morning.

The group, which spearheaded the fight for the law, claims Fleming had stage 4 pancreatic cancer which promoted her to kill herself with her doctor’s help.

"The pain became unbearable, and it was only going to get worse," the organization quoted Fleming as saying in a statement.

Oregon was the first state in the country to approve a law legalizing assisted suicide and, thus far, 401 people have used the law to kill themselves.

The Washington state law requires two doctors to certify that the patient has a terminal condition and less than six months to live. The patient must make two oral requests for assisted suicide 15 days apart and a written request witnessed by two people.

However, in Oregon, pro-life advocates point to abuses of the assisted suicide law.

Oregon resident Barbara Wagner found out Oregon health officials would pay for a suicide but not medication to treat her cancer.

After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover it. It would cover comfort and care, including, if she chose, assisted suicide.

Meanwhile, Alex Schadenberg, the head of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told LifeNews.com after Oregon release its last report on assisted suicides, that "the reporting system continues to lack any safeguards for the people who die by assisted suicide based on the fact that reporting is completed by the physician who prescribes the lethal drugs."

That is a problem since the physician who gave the patient the drugs was only present at the time of ingesting the lethal drugs 11 times or 18.3 percent of the time when patients died.

Schadenberg said many people who support assisted suicide say they do so because they want to make sure patients have adequate pain control, but he noted that the report indicates just three of the 60 people who died by assisted suicide listed concerns about inadequate pain control as a reason for requesting it.

Pro-life advocates are also worried that only two people received proper psychological evaluations prior to getting the lethal drugs. With many patients citing depression as a reason for an assisted suicide, they say patients should receive better mental health care rather than an assisted suicide.

The report also indicates that 59 physicians wrote 88 prescriptions — indicating some doctors are writing more than one lethal prescription for patients.

That leads pro-life advocates to wonder if they are truly finding better alternatives for their patients or just encouraging them to seek death as a solution.

Related web sites:
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition – https://www.epcc.ca
Coalition Against Assisted Suicide – https://www.noassistedsuicide.com

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