Study Examines Major Flaws in Assisted Suicide Laws

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An article in The Week examined a recent study on physician assisted suicide in the U.S. and across the world, writing about how the study paints a generally positive picture of PAS implementation. However, as the article notes, the study includes some very troubling findings that should not be ignored.

First, the study which was posted in the Journal of the American Medical Association this summer, highlights a major problem with PAS laws and legislation, one that we’ve been talking about since this battle started: terminal patients have high rates of depression, but are not required to receive a professional mental health evaluation or treatment prior to ending their life. As The Week writes:

“One recent study of Oregonians found that, compared to terminally ill people who didn’t ask about physician-assisted suicide, those interested in the procedure were more likely to feel depressed and hopeless, and less likely to be spiritual. And while therapy might relieve depression, in Oregon, less than 5 percent of people participating in physician-assisted suicide received a psychiatric evaluation beforehand. In Washington, less than 4 percent were referred to a psychiatrist.”

Those are appallingly low rates for terminal patients who are considering suicide. How can PAS supporters argue this bill has safeguards in place when they aren’t even protecting the most obvious and easily treated people?

Second, the study uncovers a dirty little secret about the PAS law: doctors almost half of the time do not report any information about complications arising from talking the lethal prescription. How are we to know, or believe, the law is working as intended if there is no accurate reporting?  The Week article writes about this:                                                          

“It’s difficult to tell the true rates of complications, however, because in many cases  —  44 percent in Oregon  —  doctors didn’t report that information. They need to submit that data systematically, the review’s authors write. Every medical procedure is going to have complications sometimes, but we need to know if physician-assisted suicide is working at an acceptable rate, or if we need to improve the procedure, or seek alternatives.”

We’ve already seen supporters of PAS talk about how this study affirms that PAS is great and should be implemented in more states. But as you can see, they are simply ignoring the real truths about PAS, ones that should scare everyone.

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