The Economist Tackles PAS

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This past month the Economist did a series of stories analyzing both sides of the debate surrounding physician-assisted suicide. The Economist has editorialized in support of physician-assisted suicide in the past saying falsely and dangerously that:

“In a secular society, it is odd to buttress the sanctity of life in the abstract by subjecting a lot of particular lives to unbearable pain, misery and suffering. And evidence from places that have allowed assisted dying suggests that there is no slippery slope towards widespread euthanasia. In fact, the evidence leads to the conclusion that most of the schemes for assisted dying should be bolder.”

This just plain wrong. First, pain is not even among the top reasons given by patients for wanting PAS. Second, from case studies in states and countries where PAS is legal we can clearly see the slippery slope. And further, in countries where PAS is legal, we have the eventual shift towards euthanasia.

In Quebec, the government is studying the possibility of legalizing euthanasia for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Legislators in Oregon have been looking into expanding their current PAS laws to include patients with Alzheimer’s. In fact, this year lawmakers passed a bill that will allow them to study how to carry out advance directives from these types of patients.

To its credit, the Economist also published a number of pieces arguing these points. Dr. Peter Saunders, the director of Care Not Killing wrote a piece arguing against legalizing PAS in Britain. He makes the point that there is a thin line between legalizing PAS and euthanasia and argues that this will put our most vulnerable populations at risk.

“Legalising assisted suicide and/or euthanasia is particularly dangerous because any law allowing either or both will place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives out of fear of being a burden upon relatives, carers or a state that is short of resources.”

In another Economist piece, Benoit Beuselinck, a medical oncologist at the University Hospital Leuven in Belgium, raises the example of euthanasia in Belgium. Belgium passed the law with the intent to alleviate the pain of individuals with very little time to live. It has morphed into a practice used not only on individuals with terminal diseases, but also those with dementia, autism or depression. In 2015, more than 2,000 patients underwent Euthanasia and almost 300 were non-terminal, according to Beaselinck.

“the Belgian experience shows that when you allow euthanasia for severe physical suffering at the end of a disease, little by little, doctors will be asked to solve the underlying psychological and spiritual problems of their patients by administering death.”

These stories show firsthand the significant risks of legalizing PAS and how we can avoid the dangerous mistakes made by other countries. Let’s make sure we don’t let this happen in Maryland.

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