Assisted suicide and capital punishment

The Washington Supreme Court has just ruled in State v Gregory, that capital punishment is unconstitutional on the grounds that it "is administered in an arbitrary manner" and therefore violates the State constitutional ban on "cruel punishment".

"The arbitrary and race based imposition of the death penalty cannot withstand the 'evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.'"

It is instructive to apply this notion of arbitrary imposition of death to the data on assisted suicide from that same State of Washington where assisted suicide has been legal for the past nine years.

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In 2017 alone 164 Washingtonians were arbitrarily assisted to commit suicide under the Dying With Dignity Act. Arbitrary because all that is required is any two doctors - neither of whom needs any special expertise - to assert a person has six months or less to live for the person to qualify. One Washingtonian who died from the lethal dose did so more than two years (112 weeks) after it was prescribed, demonstrating the wild inaccuracy of the prognosis.

In 2017 one person took 6 hours to lose consciousness after ingesting the lethal dose and one person took 35 hours to die after ingesting the lethal dose. If this is not "cruel punishment" what is?

And the reason 56% of those who died in 2017 gave for requesting the lethal dose was "being a burden on family, friends or caregivers". Those who are not made to feel like a burden have less chance of dying under the assisted suicide law, just as non-blacks had less chance of being sentenced to death in Washington.

Finally, there is no requirement under Washington’s Dying With Dignity Act for a physician - or any other person - to be present when the lethal dose is ingested. Since 2009 there have been 224 cases where no health-care provider was present when the lethal dose was ingested and a further 147 cases where it is not known if a health-care provider was present.

In other words in some 371 cases people have died ingesting a dose of lethal medication, legally prescribed under Washington law, and nobody knows whether the person freely ingested the lethal dose or they were cajoled, coerced or forced to do so by another person.

Western Australia should not make Washington’s mistake by legalising assisted suicide and Victoria should step back from the brink before D-Day (Death Day) 19 June 2019.


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  • Richard Egan
    published this page in News 2018-10-15 12:25:01 +1100
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