Assisted suicide puts patients at risk
By N. Gregory Hamilton, M.D.
Washington Times, September 29, 2000
Kaiser Permenente gave Kate Cheney, an elderly Oregon woman with
dementia, a lethal overdose of federally controlled substances despite
the fact that a psychiatrist had found she was not eligible for assisted
suicide. According to the psychiatric consultation, she was not mentally
competent and assisted suicide appeared to be more her daughter's
agenda than her own. How did the health maintenance organization
get around the so-called "safeguard" of a psychiatric consultation
for mentally impaired individuals required by Oregon's law legalizing
assisted suicide? It simply got another opinion.
In his Sept. 26 Commentary column, How we meet death, Bruce Fein
showed he had not done his usual research when he touted Oregon's
assisted-suicide law and condemned the enlightened Pain Relief Promotion
Act. He merely repeated Oregon state reports promoted by assisted-suicide
activists without taking note that Oregon's state-run health plan
for the poor and disabled rations health care for the poor and denies
funding for more than 100 needed medical services, yet it fully funds
Mr. Fein overlooked the fact that an Oregon HMO admitted to fully
funding assisted suicide while it limits funds available for hospice
care at a stingy $1,000. He also overlooked the fact that the first
publicly reported case of assisted suicide was diagnosed as depressed
but instead of receiving the effective treatment for depression she
needed and deserved, she was assisted in suicide. He overlooked the
fact that Oregon government reports have been criticized roundly
for giving the public only glib reassurances while failing to reveal
known cases of assisted suicide for the depressed and demented, economic
incentives favoring assisted suicide, instances of assisted suicides
failing, and the lack of any adequate "safeguards."
The real threat to good patient care is assisted suicide. If Mr.
Fein were to examine the facts, he certainly would join the American
Medical Association, the national hospice organizations and pain
care specialty organizations in supporting the Pain Relief Promotion
Act, not suicide for the vulnerable.
N. GREGORY HAMILTON, M.D.
President, Physicians for Compassionate Care