July 2, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 27

Community & Editorial

Washington’s ‘Death with Dignity’ law imperils the poor

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Last week’s article by an assisted suicide/euthanasia advocate struck me as a bizarre article for Real Change, which advocates for the dignity and self-determination of the poor. (“Terminally ill patients face shortage of right-to-die drug amid controversy over capital punishment,” Real Change, June 18)

Washington’s assisted suicide law was passed in 2008 and went into effect in 2009. This was after a deceptive initiative campaign promised us that “only” the patient would be allowed to take the lethal dose. Our law does not say that anywhere. See Margaret K. Dore, “’Death with Dignity,” What Do We Advise Our Clients?,” King County Bar Association, Bar Bulletin, May 2009, available at https://www.kcba.org/newsevents/barbulletin/BView.aspx?Month=05&Year=2009&AID=article5.htm .

In Oregon, which has a similar law, there are documented cases of that state’s Medicaid program using the law to steer patients to suicide. In other words, indigent patients are offered suicide in lieu of desired treatments to cure or to extend life. The most well-known cases are Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup. See: Susan Donaldson James, “Death Drugs Cause Uproar in Oregon,” ABC News, August 6, 2008, at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492&page=1; and “Letter noting assisted suicide raises questions,” KATU TV, July 30, 2008, at http://www.katu.com/news/specialreports/26119539.html See a.lso the Affidavit of Kenneth Stevens, MD, filed by the Canadian government in Leblanc v. Canada, available at http://maasdocuments.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/signed-stevens-aff-9-18-12.pdf.

Finally, consider this quote from a March 8, 2012 Jerry Large column in the Seattle Times. He says that at least a couple of his readers suggested euthanasia “if you couldn’t save enough money to see you through your old age.” For the poor, this would be non-voluntary or involuntary euthanasia. 

So much for the dignity and self-determination of the poor.


Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA
Seattle

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