Assisted suicide: Conspiracy and control
by Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., M.D. and William L. Toffler, M.D.,
The Oregonian online at www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/09/assisted_suicide_conspiracy_an.html
Wednesday September 24, 2008, 7:01 PM
We applaud The Oregonian's recommendation that Washington voters reject I-1000, the physician-assisted suicide measure.
We must comment on two realities: first, the group controlling assisted suicide in Oregon is also the group controlling what the public is told; second, the claim that Oregon is a leader in improved end-of-life care because of assisted suicide is inaccurate.
The editorial board correctly notes "a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know".
The group promoting assisted suicide, so-called "Compassion and Choices (C&C)", are like the fox in the proverbial chicken coop; in this case the fox is reporting its version to the farmer regarding what is happening in the coop. Members of C&C authored and proclaim they are the stewards of Oregon's assisted suicide law. They call it "their law". They have arranged and participated in 3/4ths of Oregon's assisted suicide cases. Their medical director reported she'd participated in more than 100 doctor-assisted suicides as of March 2005. A physician board-member reported in 2006 that he'd been involved with over forty such patients. Their executive director reported in September 2007 that he has attended more than 36 assisted suicide deaths. He has been involved in preparing the lethal solution. Yet, he is not a doctor.
In 2006, C&C's attorneys intimidated the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to change to euphemisms in referring to Oregon's assisted suicide law. The limited DHS reports of assisted suicides is another indication of this organization's influence. Information that is damaging to the "good public image" of Oregon's assisted suicide law is hidden or glossed-over in the DHS reports. As such, we believe the initials "C&C" of this organization more properly reflect its repeated public behavior ---that is, "Conspiracy & Control".
Regardless of one's perspective on assisted suicide, all citizens should be concerned about the controlling influence of this death-promoting organization. In all other areas of medicine, we are striving for increased transparency---not conspiracy and control.
What about assisted suicide causing improved end-of-life care?
There is improved end-of-life care in Oregon. In training physicians, we have sought to improve patient-physician communication, and improve patient care at many levels. We have made improvements. However, similar improvements have occurred in other states that have not legalized assisted suicide. Many states do better than Oregon in this area. The latest data ranks Oregon 9th (not 1st) in Medicare-age hospice-utilization; 4 of the top 5 states have criminalized assisted-suicide. The Wisconsin Pain Policies Studies Group issues grades regarding states' pain-policies. While Oregon & Washington both have high grades on their pain-policies, an OHSU study documented that after 4 years of assisted suicide in Oregon there was a decline in end-of-life pain-control. This doesn't prove that the pain-control decline was due to assisted suicide. At the same time, the data doesn't support the claim that legalization of assisted suicide improved care at the end-of-life.
In summary, we should all be wary of the false "C&C" claims.
Kenneth R. Stevens, Jr., M.D., is Vice-president, Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation.
William L. Toffler, M.D., is National Director, Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation.