Physician assisted suicide legislation has been filed in the D.C. Council, B21-0038 – the so-called “Death with Dignity Act of 2015.”
This bill is seriously flawed, unnecessary, and puts patients’ lives at risk.
Get the facts about this dangerous legislation and help us defeat it by contacting your Council Member.
- It’s Impossible to Accurately Predict a Terminal Diagnosis
Patients can request physician-assisted suicide if a doctor has diagnosed them with a terminal illness and six months or less to live. Even doctors will admit such a prognosis is nearly impossible to accurately predict. The inability to accurately predict life expectancy is among the most compelling reasons to oppose physician-assisted suicide.
- Patients Are Not Required to Receive a Mental Health Screening for Depression
The bill does not require doctors to give patients a screening for depression before providing lethal medication. Mental health professionals argue strongly that the overwhelming number of suicides could have been avoided with the right therapeutic intervention. And, they know that the stress and turmoil caused by difficult medical diagnoses can trigger a depressive episode – a discrete medical condition that can be treated. The legislation opens the door for those who are suffering from depression – or even those who are overwhelmed for a short period of time – to choose a lethal course of action.
- No Family Notification Required
While the prescribing physician is required to “recommend” that the patient inform family members of his or her intention, there is nothing in the law requiring this notification.
- No Protections Against Coercion or Abuse
There are no safeguards to ensure that a patient is not coerced at the time of death into ingesting the drug, or even to prevent another person from administering the drug, leaving open serious potential for abuse.
- No Doctor or Nurse Present
In almost all cases, patients will not ingest the lethal dose in a medical setting. And there will not be a doctor, nurse, or independent person with them in case something goes wrong, or to protect against abuse.
- The Lethal Drugs Are Picked Up at Your Local Pharmacy
Patients pick up their lethal medication at their local pharmacy. In most cases, this medication is up to 100 individual pills of secobarbital.
- Which states currently allow PAS?
Since January 1994, there have been over 140 legislative proposals in 27 states to legalize Oregon-style laws. All but four states, Oregon, Washington, Vermont and California, have adamantly rejected the legalization of physician assisted suicide. In addition, through judicial processes it is legal in Montana and one county in New Mexico.
- What Other Groups Oppose Physician Assisted Suicide?
The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization, the National Council on Disability, and numerous other medical, palliative care, and disability organizations oppose physician assisted suicide. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, reflecting its members’ extensive experience in caring for patients facing a terminal illness, states: “When symptoms or circumstances become intolerable to a patient, effective therapies are now available to assure relief from almost all forms of distress during the terminal phase of an illness without purposefully hastening death as the means to that end.” [Commentary and Resolution on Physician Assisted Suicide, NHPCO, 2005]