Pro-Life Advocates: Washington Assisted Suicide Death Shows Pain Control Need

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

Pro-Life Advocates: Washington Assisted Suicide Death Shows Pain Control Need

by Steven Ertelt Editor
May 22
, 2009

Olympia, WA ( — Leading national and statewide pro-life advocates are disappointed by the news that the first person has died under the assisted suicide law in Washington state. They say more must be done to help patients with pain control and management, which is the listed reason for the first death.

The law is the second following Oregon, and Montana, after a state Supreme Court ruling, could become the third to allow the practice.

As reported, a 66-year-old woman from Sequim named Linda Fleming died Thursday night after taking a lethal cocktail.

She supposedly had stage 4 pancreatic cancer, according to the pro-euthanasia group Compassion and Choices, which reported on Fleming killing herself.

"We knew this was inevitable. Nonetheless, it is a very sad day for Washington State," says Dan Kennedy, the longtime director of Human Life of Washington, the statewide pro-life group.

Kennedy told he’s disappointed because has been involved in a volunteer anti-suicide hotline for eight years and had helped countless people turn their lives around.

Kennedy also pointed to concerns in Oregon that patients who kill themselves in assisted suicides are not getting proper pain management.

"It will undoubtedly be spun by Compassion and Choices that she was in unbearable pain. If that was the case, she wasn’t being provided all the options for pain management," he said. "No one who opposes assisted suicide is in favor of unbearable pain. But unbearable pain does not have to be a part of the dying process given today’s medical advances."

Kennedy told he found it ironic that, yesterday, a good friend of Human Life, John Peyton, who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease and spoke out against Initiative 1000, died a natural death surrounded by family.

"When a culture trumpets helping patients kill themselves, it is clear we have drifted far from the foundation of medicine – to do no harm. Though this woman may also have been surrounded by family and friends at her death, under the law, no one has to be present," he explained.

"The opportunity for abuse is written into the law itself. Where this so-called medical service is leading us, we do not want to go," he added.

Meanwhile, Burke Balch, a pro-life attorney who is the director of National Right to Life’s Powell Center for Medical Ethics, told that he, too, is concerned about pain management.

"The tragic word of the first death under Washington State’s legalization of
assisting suicide is made more bitter by the announced reason -– that the
victim was suffering unbearable pain," he said.

"Modern medicine has the ability to manage physical pain – but, sadly, many doctors at the clinical level are inadequately trained to provide cutting edge pain management. The victim needed referral to a good pain management specialist, not to be killed," Balch said.

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