Washington Says 28 People Have Requested Assisted Suicide Drugs Since March
by Steven Ertelt
September 9, 2009
Olympia, WA (LifeNews.com) — The first report from the state health department in Washington finds 28 people requested assisted suicide drugs since the new law allowing the practice went into effect in March. The new figures show 16 of the patients have since died, though she state won’t say if they died from natural causes or using the barbiturates.
The pro-euthanasia group that promoted the I-1000 ballot initiative making Washington the second state to legalize assisted suicide says it knows of 11 people who have killed themselves so far.
The head of the group relied on an old pro-abortion slogan to say the assisted suicide law is working as well in Washington as it has in Oregon, the first state to advance it.
"Deaths under the Death With Dignity Act have been safe, legal and rare," Robb Miller, executive director of Compassion & Choices of Washington, said at a press conference.
Dan Kennedy, the director of Human Life, the statewide pro-life group, talked with LifeNews.com about the new statistics.
"Those diagnosed as terminally ill in Washington State now have a target on their back, as a result of assisted suicide," he said. "Instead of providing loving care, effective pain management, and fulfillment at the end of life, Compassion & Choices plays on fears and depression."
"Given the current debate on health care, this is an ominous sign of things to come, if we don’t stop it," he added.
Eileen Geller, president of True Compassion Advocates, told the Seattle Times that there have been too many deaths and she worries the number will grow as the years go by.
"We ought not be celebrating numbers of people who have died from a lethal drug overdose," she said. "We don’t believe assisted suicide is the answer to anything."
Geller said the euthanasia proponents are using the new figures as a "marketing" technique to expand assisted suicides further and called that disingenuous.
She also worries the disabled and elderly will be pushed into dying and says that more must be done to treat pain and the depression that could lead some to kill themselves.
Linda Fleming, a pancreatic cancer patient from Sequim, was the first to die with drugs given to her by her doctor.
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 released 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.
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