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:
- 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
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 :
HB1536 has been filed to create the Compassionate Care End-of-Life Option Act; and to exempt the Compassionate Care End-of-Life Option Act from the definition of “Physician-Assisted Suicide. Referred to the House Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee. Died in committee following a public hearing.
Legislation HB2089 termed Kansas Death with Dignity to legalize assisted suicide was introduced in January of 2019 and referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services.
Governor Janet Mills signed the so-called "Death with Dignity Act, into law in June 2019 which goes into effect mid-September 2019.
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.
SB 168 was introduced on February 14, 2019 by Senator David Parks. It has passed out of the Nevada Senate Committee.
HB 291 establishing a committee to study certain findings and other initiatives regarding end-of-life care. Passed the House.
HB 90 and companion bill SB 153 titled Elizabeth Whitefield End of Life Options Act passed the House Health and Human Services Committee by a 4-3 party line vote (one member excused) on January 28, 2019. It was amended to remove all references to telemedicine and changed predictable death from “foreseeable future” to six months. It retains the ability for non-physicians to diagnose and prescribe lethal drugs. It was sent to the House floor. House bill withdrawn due to lack of votes for passage. Senate bill died in committee.
S647 prohibits insurance coverage for assisted suicide; disallowing any individual, group, or contract insurance from covering physician-assisted suicide, including but not limited to, aid-in-dying prescription drugs.
Three bills to expand assisted suicide were introduced in January of 2019. SB 579 passed and goes into effect January 2020. This bill eliminates the 15-day waiting period if the doctor determines the patient has less than 15 days to live. It also allows doctors to prescribe medication faster than the current 48-hour waiting period.
The “Lila Manfield Sapinsley Compassionate Care Act” (S 0157) has again been introduced in Rhode Island.
HB 121 titled End of Life Options Act which would legalize physician-assisted suicide was introduced in the House on January 28, 2019 and resides in the House Rules Committee where no action was taken on the bill.
HB 2713 titled Death with Dignity Act was presented on January 15, 2019 and has been left in the Committee for Courts of Justice which has taken no action on the bill.
"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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