Current Events Related to Physician-Assisted Suicide

First month of 2019…

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Seven states and the District of Columbia now have legalized assisted suicide on the books. That this is only the beginning can be seen in the plethora of new state legislatures crafting laws that would allow the practice to be more widespread.

When I first wrote about ethical issues in terminal health care more than 25 years ago, one of the strongest arguments against legalizing it was the “slippery slope” argument. Once you cross a line that had once been drawn in the sand, where can the next line be drawn that will hold firm?

Oregon approved its Death With Dignity legislation more than two decades ago. Today the state is seeking to broaden the law, with advocates feeling it is too restrictive.

Now there is a bill being debated in New Mexico that would make it even easier to take one’s life. You don’t even need to see a doctor and no longer have to be in the last stages of dying. That is, most laws pertaining to legalized assisted-death require you to be in your last six months of life. New Mexico legislation would loosen this to say you are going to die “in the foreseeable future.” Deliberately vague.

The Deserit News story by Jennifer Graham states:

Unlike legislation recently filed in Utah, which says the patient must have six months or less to live, New Mexico’s bill would make the option available to anyone with an incurable illness that will cause death “in the foreseeable future.” And it would allow a patient to receive the drugs two days after the prescription is written.

A Survey of New York doctors found that a majority favor assisted dying, paving the way for legalizing the practice in New York as well, though 56% it is not really an overwhelming majority. The survey is clearly an effort to pave the way for legislation that will be considered.

AMA Itself Wrestles With This Issue
The American Medical Association, and the entire profession of medicine in the U.S., stand at a crucial ethical crossroads. For two years the AMA has been considering the question of physician-assisted suicide (PAS): shall physician assistance with patient suicide now be considered permissible, or shall physicians hold fast to the ethic that a physician’s duty is to “to cure sometimes, to relieve often, and to comfort always,” but never to kill?
— Shane E. Macaulay, MD

THE NETHERLANDS, however, is concerned about this issue as the numbers seeking assisted dying continue to grow:

Proposed bill will cause explosion of assisted suicide in New Mexico

Will it provoke an “explosion” of assisted suicides? Or is the headline designed to get use riled up?

Maryland advocates are also hoping they can pass legislation this year.

And Arizona is pushing “Death With Dignity” as well.

There are two sides to every issue, and it is good to be aware of both before making a decision. Here are my own thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Physician Assisted Death.

What are your thoughts on this issue? It might be more important than you think.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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