End of Life
Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
"I will never give a deadly drug to anyone if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect."
The statement above is the foundational moral principle of medicine, pledged by doctors for centuries as they attempt to cure and relieve suffering without injuring the patient. It's a principle being eroded by the movement to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia. When combined with an impersonal and technological healthcare system, the movement to support PAS has proven lethal. Prescribed suicide is an immoral slippery slope that corrupts the doctor-patient trust. Put simply, it’s dangerous. And it’s not just dangerous for the physicians and healthcare workers, but it’s also dangerous for our country, our healthcare system and for every patient.
We are committed to providing the most up-to-date information on the legislative, ethical and medical aspects of the fight against the legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. We’ve compiled a variety of resources that you can use to educate yourself and others about this important issue. So get involved today: talk about the issue with your friends, write your legislators and send a letter to your local newspaper to let others know how important this issue is for your state and our country.
Informational resources to aid you in understanding the dangers of physician-assisted suicide:
- Palliative Care or Assisted Suicide? - Michael Cheng-tek Tai, PhD
- Physician-Assisted Suicide: NOT Exactly What Its Proponents Advertise It to Be - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- Things Are Not as They Seem - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- What’s Happening with Physician-Assisted Suicide - Jane Patton, RN
- Position Paper on Physician-Assisted Suicide - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- Medicine’s Schizophrenic Approach to Suicide - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- Helping Patients Live vs. Helping Them Die - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- What if we call it “Medical Aid in Dying”? - D. Joy Riley, MD, MA
- COMMENTARY: Assisted suicide would put our most vulnerable patients at risk
- We should walk with people who are dying, not lead them to it | Opinion- PA Media Group
- Over 100 patients ended their lives in CA in one year (Christian News Network)
- MASS: No to doctor-assisted suicide - Dr. Mark Rollo (Sentinel Enterprise)
- The Effect of legalizing Assisted Suicide on Palliative Care and Suicide Rates by Richard M. Doerflinger, M.A.
- Editorial: Nevada should reject assisted suicide bill: Dr. Kirk Bronander(Reno Gazette-Journal)
- First Do No Harm — A video with Dr. William Bolthouse from the Family Policy Alliance.
- 10 Reasons Why Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Be Overturned in D.C.
- Vermont Lawsuit — Health professionals ask court to stop Vermont from forcing them to help kill patients
- AMA Position on Physician-Assisted Suicide
- Neutrality — Medical associations are increasingly going neutral on this issue.
- Always Care, Never Kill by Ryan Anderson, PhD, The Heritage Foundation
- Lessons from Recent Polls on Physician-Assisted Suicide - Dr. Frederick J. White, MD, FACC, FCCP
Physician-assisted suicide is legal in six U.S. states:
- California — After being defeated six times in regular legislative sessions and by vote of Californians, assisted suicide was pushed through an extraordinary legislative session called to address Medi-Cal funding for low-income individuals. Governor Jerry Brown signed AB-15 into law on October 5, 2015, falsely asserting it legalized suicide (which has never been illegal in California, because it is deemed to be the result of mental illness). The law went into effect on June 9, 2016. Life Legal Defense Foundation reprsenting the American Academy of Medical Ethics in litigation challenging the End of Life Options Act in California.
- Colorado - Colorado voters passed Proposition 106 which legalized physician-assisted suicide on November 8, 2016.
- District of Columbia - D.C. Council passed physician-assisted suicide bill, Act 21-577 on November 15, 2016 and it was signed into law on December 2016 by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser.
- Hawaii - Governor David Ige signed a bill to legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide bill on April 5, 2018. It went into effect January 1, 2019.
- New Jersey – In April 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill which passed the state legislature to legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide. The bill goes into effect August 1, 2019.
- Oregon — "Death with Dignity" was passed 51 percent to 49 percent in 1994 and was implemented in 1998 after an injunction, a 9th Circuit Court ruling and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
- Vermont — "End of Life Choices" act was signed into law on May 20, 2013 to legalize physician-assisted suicide.
- Washington — The act to legalize physician-assisted suicide was enacted via a ballot initiative in 2008 and went into effect in 2009.
Brittany Maynard's decision to end her life through physician-assisted suicide brought this topic to the forefront across the United States, and more than 21 states now have legislation pending in their individual state legislatures. We unite with other like-minded organizations to help stop the spread of its legalization throughout our country.
You can help stop its spread by joining in our efforts. Click on the individual states below to find out more about the status of each state's current legislation.
Written Testimony of Dr. Bill Lawton, June 25, 2019:
Testimony Opposing the End of Life Options Act (S. 1208 and H. 1926) before the Joint Committee on Public Health, June 25, 2019 at the Massachusetts State House. William J. Lawton, M.D. FACP
Dear Senator Comerford, Representative Mahoney and Distinguished Members of the Joint Committee on Public Health:
I am Dr. William Lawton, a doctor in Internal Medicine and specialist in kidney diseases and hypertension. I have cared for patients facing end of life decisions for 50 years. I live in Sutton, MA and am strongly opposed to legislation legalizing the End of Life Options Act (previously referred to as physician assisted suicide (PAS) and doctor prescribed suicide (DPS).
I have been privileged to present written testimony to this Committee in 2013, and personal oral testimony on October 27, 2015. At the time of my second oral testimony to this committee on Sept 26, 2017, I reported a major change in my health. In June 2017, I received the diagnosis of incurable Stage IV cancer of the pancreas and spoke with new perspective and commitment in my opposition to PAS. The two-year survival rate of stage 4 pancreatic cancer is less than 10%.
Since I am unable to be present at the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 25th to provide my testimony personally, I am providing my written testimony for you today. Since May 16, 2019 I have entered a new stage in my two-year journey with pancreatic cancer. I am now on hospice and palliative care.
Even with my daily battles with pancreatic cancer, I am grateful to be alive today! Over the past two years I have received excellent and compassionate care from Dr. Venu Bathini and the oncology and palliative team at U Mass Memorial in Worcester. Combined with the affiliation and care through The Dana Farber Institute, my life has been extended and progress is being made daily through research in the treatment of this aggressive cancer. During this challenging past month, I’ve appreciated the support and encouragement of the VNA Care Hospice team. Daily I have a new perspective as I think about the arguments made by proponents for the End of Life Options Act and am more resolved than ever that medicine, treatment, research and palliative care offer LIFE options that far outweigh providing pills to prematurely end life.
Over the past 24 months, I have experienced a life full of purpose, contentment and joy investing in the lives of my wife, our children, six grandchildren, family and friends from around the world. If my life had ended prematurely, I would have missed out on many special occasions and celebrations – grandchildren’s concerts and sporting events, holidays and birthdays. This past month I was able to celebrate my 54th wedding anniversary. Most of all I have had the privilege of investing in the lives of loved ones and passing on the legacy, wisdom and values important to me. There have been hospitalizations from the side effects of the treatments and suffering of the pancreatic cancer itself, but I truly value the quality time and am so thankful for the gift of life.
My final plea to the Joint Committee of Public Health would be to oppose legislation legalizing the End of Life Options Act. Great strides are being made daily in cancer research that instill hope for breakthrough in cures and improved treatment to provide longer, quality life for cancer survivors. Patients would benefit by additional support to strengthen education for end-of-life care in our medical and nursing schools and assure that palliative care and hospice are available to all in our Commonwealth, regardless of economic status, disability, race, or ethnic background.
Respectfully and gratefully submitted,
William J. Lawton, M.D., FACP
5 Point Way Sutton, MA 01590-1801
Video Testimony of Dr. Lawton, Sept. 26, 2017 :
John Pike, BS, PA-C, DFAAPA
21 Tuscany Hills Dr
Middletown, CT 06457
Members of the committee.
My name is John Pike residing in Middletown. I am the CT State Director for the American Academy of Medical Ethics. www.ethicalhealthcare.org I’m a licensed physician assistant, practicing at St. Francis Hospital the last 27 years, most of those years in the critical care setting.
I’m again testifying in opposition, this time to HB 5420 titled “An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients”, a euphemism for physician assisted suicide. Except for date changes, this bill is word for word the exact same bill that was introduced the last two years, and has been rejected by the public health and judiciary committees since 2013 after overwhelming opposition testimony. Last year, Representative Steinberg stated that the bill would not be brought up this year given the short session and committee membership being the same, but here we are. To date, the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians remain opposed to physician assisted suicide.
- I, and others, have repeatedly appeared here to state the danger to physicians becoming complicit in the death of patients; danger to elderly and ill patients; families of these victims and our culture at large.
- Additionally, a crucial and unchanged aspect of this bill is the requirement of the person signing the death certificate to put down the cause of death as their illness rather than the fact that they committed suicide – basically for the official signer to lie.
- Last year I pointed out to the committee about the emergence of euthanasia in Canada from their “medical assistance in dying” enactment. Just to be clear, this is called mission creep.
- Assisted suicide in Canada was advanced a step further this last September after a Quebec Superior Court decision removed the provision that death must be “reasonably foreseeable” for euthanasia. Now they are considering extending this dangerous law to mature minors and those suffering from mental illness. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s mission creep!
- Hawaii, which passed legislation two years ago, is considering expansion bills to grant prescription-writing authority to registered nurses, to allow consultation by telehealth and to remove waiting periods. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s mission creep!
- Since last year’s hearing here, the National Council on Disability released to the President of the United States its report documenting the dangers, biases, and flaws in assisted suicide concluding that “states should not legalize any form of assisted suicide or active euthanasia”.
- Where assisted suicide is legal, it cheapens life and limits options. The previously noted report by the National Disability Council states: “when assisted suicide is legalized…. it immediately becomes the cheapest treatment. Direct coercion is not necessary. If insurers deny, or even simply delay, approval of expensive life-sustaining treatment, patients can be steered toward hastening their deaths.”
A month ago, the Concord Mirror in New Hampshire stated about a proposed physician assisted suicide bill that it “goes against the very essence of who we are as citizens… If we want to show that we value the lives of at-risk teens, the elderly, people with disabilities and veterans who have fought for our country, we should be focusing our energy on providing them with care, not with death”.
I have no doubt in my mind that Compassion and Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, would like to wear you down year after year so that you will pass this dangerous law. Please do not give in. Do what is right and safe for society.
A physician-assisted suicide bill, SB 1800, the Death with Dignity Act, has been proposed for the first time in history; on March 14 the bill was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration."
The Georgia General Assembly is considering a physician-assisted suicide bill, SB 291, the Death with Dignity Act. The bill is in Committee. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Georgia state legislature suspended its 2020 session, and the bill will likely not advance.
Hawaii is the 7th U.S. jurisdiction to have a physician-assisted suicide statute The Our Care, Our Choice Act went into effect on January 1, 2019. In the 2020 session, a number of amendments to the Our Care, Our Choice Act were proposed; none advanced to enactment as the Hawaii legislature went into recess because of the COVID-19 crisis."
Indiana State Representative Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) introduced HB 1020, Indiana End of Life Options Act, on January 7, 2020. Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon has signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Public Health. A bill introduced in the 2020 session, SB 446, would “prohibit euthanasia” in the state.
HB 224 died in committee with no action taken.
Companion End-of-Life Option Act bills, HB0643 (53 sponsors) and SB0701 (16 sponsors), were under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly. SB0701 was heard in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on February 28, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Maryland state legislature adjourned early and the bills did not advance in the 2020 session.
Groups of legislators in both chambers of the Minnesota Legislature are sponsoring companion physician-assisted suicide bills, both of which were referred to each chamber’s health committee. A informational hearing on HF 2152 in the House Committee on Health and Human Services Policy took place on September 11, 2019. Bill carried over to 2020. No action was taken.
Legislation was introduced in January of 2019, if passed HB284 will reverse the impact of the Baxter decision which did not legalize assisted suicide but allows it if the patient consents.
A physician-assisted suicide bill for New Hampshire did not advance in the 2020 legislation session. A House Committee referred HB 1659, the New Hampshire Death with Dignity Act, for further study.
New Jersey’s Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act took effect on August 1, 2019 and is in effect. Qualified patients may request and physicians may prescribe medications under the law. New Jersey is the eighth jurisdiction to have a death with dignity statute. One in five Americans now live where the option is available. In the 2020 session, a group of legislators introduced a bill aiming to repeal the state’s new physician-assisted suicide statute.
The New York Medical Aid in Dying Act 2694 is under consideration in Assembly and Senate committees, co-sponsored by 40 Assembly members and 13 Senators. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the New York State Legislature suspended its 2020 session and the bill did not advance.
A bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide was introduced in November of 2019 (House Bill 2033) which carried over to 2020.
Rhode Island State Representative Edith Ajello (D-Providence) is again sponsoring a physician-assisted suicide bill. H 7369, the Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act, was introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly on January 30, 2020. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate on February 4, 2020.
In the 2020 legislative session, Utah State Representative Jennifer Dailey-Provost (D-24) sponsored HB 93, the Utah End of Life Options Act. The bill did not advance.
HB 1649, the Virginia Medical Aid in Dying Act, a physician-assisted suicide bill, has been heard in committee and, at the request of the bill sponsor, continued to the next session. Carried over to 2021.
In the 2020 session, a bill was introduced seeking to study barriers to using the Washington Death with Dignity Act (physician-assisted suicide) which would expand its practice of assisted suicide. SB 2419, in a substitute form, passed in the House of Representatives 67 to 31 and in the Senate 36 to 13. On April 3, 2020, Governor Inslee vetoed the bill citing the need for the state to conserve resources to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
"In particular, pain and suffering have been cited as the primary reason for justifying physician-assisted suicide. Despite these claims, effective palliation of pain exists and is provided every day to patients LIVING with terminal illness. We, as a society, must be careful in protecting these vulnerable patients at the end of life."
—Matthew Suh, MD
The American Academy of Medical Ethics promotes the interests of medical educators, medical practitioners and scientists, the care and well-being of patients, the protection of public health, and the betterment of the medical profession, as well as protects and promotes the historical values that have provided the longstanding foundation for Western healthcare. We foresee the standard of healthcare in North American once again defined by the Hippocratic tradition.
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