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Is Compassion & Choices Actively Misleading Legislators about PAS?

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“It’s almost never about pain”

This quote in a recent Washington Post article about the debate over physician-assisted suicide instantly dispels one of the main arguments from proponents about why physician-assisted suicide should be legalized. What’s more, the quote is from a doctor who prescribes lethal prescriptions under California’s PAS law.

The data backs up this assertion: As noted in the most recent Oregon “Death with Dignity” report (2015), the three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: “less able to engage in activities making life enjoyable” (96.2%), “losing autonomy” (92.4%), and “loss of dignity” (75.4%). Inadequate pain control ranked 6th in the report, with only 28.7% of patients reporting this as a reason why they requested a lethal prescription. The data is similar in Washington State where PAS is also legal.

The same Washington Post article summarizes the situation well:

“Yet the latest research shows that…Those who have actually used these laws have been far more concerned about controlling the way they exit the world than about controlling pain.”

This raises two major concerns:

  1. Is Compassion & Choices actively misleading policymakers across the country about why states should legalize physician-assisted suicide?
  2. Are states where PAS is legal giving lethal prescriptions to patients because they are suffering psychological stress instead of suffering from physical pain?

We believe both concerns are 100% true. Compassion & Choice’s own website makes it clear we’re right. They argue:

“Medical Aid in Dying is one end-of-life option… for terminally ill, mentally capable people who have a prognosis of six months or less to live, to request, obtain and—if his or her suffering becomes unbearable—self-ingest medication that brings about a peaceful death.” (emphasis added)

This statement willingly ignores the facts stated above. Since patients very rarely request lethal prescriptions because of pain, we know they are doing it because their “unbearable” suffering is psychological. Furthermore, as controlling pain is C&C’s primary argument in support of PAS legalization, they are blatantly misleading legislators about why PAS is needed in their state.

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