Physician Assisted Suicide: Life or Death in D.C.

Physician Assisted Suicide: Life or Death in D.C.

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Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) gave an eye-opening lecture yesterday at FRC on the harmful D.C. assisted suicide law and why Congress must repeal it. Earlier this year, Washington, D.C. joined six other states in legalizing assisted suicide. As a physician of over 25 years and a strong supporter of patient rights and access to quality care, Rep. Wenstrup has led the charge in Congress to repeal it, citing that this is not a partisan issue, but a human issue.

Assisted suicide endangers the most vulnerable — people who are sick, poor, and elderly, and fails to hold doctors and health insurance companies accountable. As in other states, health insurance companies could refuse actual life-saving treatment and only offer assisted suicide as an option because it is cheaper. Thus, it decreases options for patients and leaves them unprotected. Assisted suicide also corrupts the medical profession which is built on the “first do no harm” principle of the Hippocratic Oath. A doctor’s role is to bring healing or comfort to a patient — not to kill the patient.

The D.C. assisted suicide law is very dangerous. First, like other assisted suicide laws, there is a lack of accountability and transparency. For example, the death certificate does not specify that the person died by assisted suicide. Instead, it requires that the cause of death be recorded as the underlying disease. This is deceptive and it does not allow authorities to properly report on its incidence and outcomes. As Rep. Wenstrup said, nowhere else in medicine is this acceptable. This law also does not require a doctor or witnesses to be present with the person when they take the lethal drugs, and there is no follow-up. Once the lethal drugs are prescribed, they could potentially fall into the hands of a child or in the hands of a family or friend who stands to gain by taking that person’s life, and no one would know.

Second, it threatens people who do not have terminal illnesses. Even illnesses such as diabetes, which can be curable, can qualify someone for lethal assisted suicide drugs. The law does not even require people to screen for mental illness.

Third, there are no safeguards in the law to stop assisted suicide “tourism” to our nation’s capital.

Assisted suicide is not healthcare. It is bad policy and it sends the message that some people’s lives are not worth living. In fact, where assisted suicide exists, the general suicide rate also skyrockets. For example, in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal, the general suicide rate has been increasing since 2000. It has long outpaced the country. In 2012, the Oregon general suicide rate was 42% higher than the national average.

FRC will continue to work with Rep. Wenstrup and other supporters to repeal the D.C. assisted suicide law and protect the lives and well-being of the most vulnerable populations among us.

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