Tetraplegic model Claire Freeman planned to end her life at a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland - but instead she is now speaking out against euthanasia in a new documentary.
Dr. Janet Conway, an orthopaedic surgeon and division head of bone and joint infection at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopaedics at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, warns that support for the legalisation of assisted suicide is driven by fear and ignorance.
What is driving this unfortunate bill [End-Of-Life-Option Act, Maryland] is fear. Fear of pain, fear of being a burden, fear of lack of control, fear of feeling hopeless and depressed. Only poor decisions can be made based on fear and lack of knowledge.
The Oregon Health Authority has revealed in an answer to an email from researcher Richard Egan that in reporting that "unknown" responses were excluded "from the denominator" when calculating percentages on the "End of Life Concerns" which prescribing physicians believe motivated each person who died after ingesting a lethal dose of poison prescribed by them.
Based on this response a careful analysis of the 2018 Data Summary from Oregon revealed that:
- In more than one in four cases there is no discussion between the prescribing physician and the person requesting assisted suicide of concerns about the financial cost of treating or prolonging his or her terminal condition.
- In more than one in five cases there is no discussion of concerns about the loss of control of bodily functions, such as incontinence and vomiting.
- In nearly one in six cases there is no discussion of concerns about inadequate pain control at the end of life.
- In nearly one in seven cases there is no discussion of concerns about being a physical or emotional burden on family, friends or caregivers.
This suggest that in many cases discussions between attending physicians and persons requesting lethal medication are almost solely around autonomy and related matters and that there is no serious discussion about underlying issues such as family dynamics, feelings of being a burden, financial considerations, pain control or loss of bodily functions at the end of life.
In the absence of such discussions it seems that an attending physician could not have properly fulfilled the obligation under the Death With Dignity Act to have fully informed the person of feasible alternatives. Nor could the physician come to a genuine conclusion that the person was making a fully informed and truly voluntary decision to request lethal medication.
The case for legalising assisted suicide and euthanasia simplistically assumes that once legalised such deaths will be both rapid and peaceful. However, this is not the case. As a 2019 article in the journal Anaesthesia found:
Complications related to assisted dying methods were found to include difficulty in swallowing the prescribed dose (≤9%), a relatively high incidence of vomiting (≤10%), prolongation of death (by as much as seven days in ≤4%), and failure to induce coma, where patients re-awoke and even sat up (≤1.3%).This raises a concern that some deaths may be inhumane.
In Belgium deaths by legal euthanasia have increased more than tenfold (1003%) from 235 in 2003 – the first full year of legalisation – to 2,357 in 2018.
Assisted suicides increased by a further 6.3% from 2017 to 2018 and now account for 0.47% of all deaths of adults in Oregon.