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Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS),
a.k.a. Euthanasia, and
Medical Aid in Dying (MAID).
All sides to the issue.

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Quotations:

bullet "Whose life is it, anyway?" A plea by the late Sue Rodrigues, a high-profile, terminally-ill resident of British Columbia, Canada, who suffered from ALS (a.k.a. Lou Gehrig Disease). 1 She committed suicide during the early 1990's in the presence of a physician and MP (Member of Parliament). Although the police investigated the death, neither the doctor nor the MP were prosecuted. Apparently, Sue committed suicide without any direct help from the other two people who were present for emotional support.
 
bullet "We are disappointed at the decision. The president remains fully committed to building a culture of life ... that is built on valuing life at all stages." White House spokesman Scott McClellan speaking for President George W. Bush, responding to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2006-JAN which found the Oregon physician assisted suicide legislation to be constitutional. 2
 
bullet "The right to a good death is a basic human freedom. The [2006-JAN] Supreme Court's decision to uphold aid in dying allows us to view and act on death as a dignified moral and godly choice for those suffering with terminal illnesses." John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA. 3

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Webmaster's suggestions to persons considering suicide:

A root cause for the desire to commit suicide is often depression. This can often be controlled with medication. If you are depressed, I strongly recommend that you seek medical help to lift your depression.

Another major cause of suicidal ideation is often intolerable levels of pain associated with a terminal illness, like cancer. Many physicians are reluctant to prescribe high levels of some pain killers out of fear that the person will become addicted to them. If you are suffering from pain in spite of medication, try insisting on better levels or types of pain killers. Recruit friends and family to intercede with your physician if you can.

If you feel overwhelmed and lack an effective support system of friends and family, consider tapping into the services of a crisis hotline. These are called by various names in North America: distress centers, crisis centers, suicide prevention centers, etc. Their telephone numbers can often be found in the first page(s) of your telephone directory. If you cannot find a number for a center in your area, try phoning directory assistance at 4-1-1.

In the United States, you can call 1-800-273-TALK. See: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ They will direct you to a crisis center in your area.

network of U.S. crisis lines
U.S. Crisis Center map

Crisis centers/distress centers/ etc are often confidential services that you can phone up at any time of the day or night for support. You can usually remain anonymous.

Wikipedia lists suicide crisis lines for many countries from Australia to the United States at: https://en.wikipedia.org/ Although these lines are often called "suicide prevention lines" or "crisis lines." most of the people calling are not suicidal, not in crisis, but are in distress. So, don't be reluctant to call them because you are "only" in distress.

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Overview:

Throughout North America, committing suicide or attempting to commit suicide is no longer a criminal offense. However, helping another person commit suicide is generally considered a very serious criminal act.

Nine exceptions in the U.S. and Canada are:

bullet Montana does not have a PAS law that is in effect. However, a ruling by the state Supreme Court in 2009-DEC-21 found that a doctor could use a patient's request for life ending medication as a defense against criminal charges. This ruling effectively made PAS legal in the state.
 
bullet Oregon became the first state to pass a law allowing people who are terminally ill, in intractable pain, and not depressed to obtain a lethal prescription from their physician which they may decide to consume and end their chronic suffering. This is called "Physician Assisted Suicide" or PAS. The law became effective in 1997.
 
bullet Washington State voters passed Initiative 1000 in 2008-NOV. Supporters call it a "Death with Dignity bill;" opponents call it an "Assisted Suicide" measure. Both are accurate descriptions. It is similar to the Oregon law.
 
bullet Vermont's PAS legislation has been in effective since 2013.

bullet California's bill allowing PAS is called the "End of Life Option Act." It took effect on 2016-JUN-09, and was patterned after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. Two public opinion polls during 2015 indicated 76% and 72.5% public support. 5
bullet Colorado has allowed PAS since 2016-JUN-09, following voters' approval of Proposition 106. 6

bullet Hawaii has allowed PAS since 2019-JAN-07, when a law signed by Governor Ige (D) on 2018-APR-05 became effective. 7

bullet New Jersey's PAS bill was signed into law on 2019-APR-12 by Governor Phil Murphy (D), and becomes effective on 2019-AUG-01.

bullet Maine's bill allowing PAS is called the "Maine Death with Dignity Act" It took effect on 2019-JUN-12, and was patterned after Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. It had previously failed a public vote and -- on at least seven times -- in the Legislature. 5


bullet In Canada, the Supreme Court ruled in 2015-FEB that adults with some medical condition are entitled to physician assisted suicide. This ruling was stayed and will not take effect until 2016-JUN-06 when the court ordered the federal government to have enabling legislation in place.

There were four failed ballot initiatives between 1991 and 2000:

bullet 1991: Washington state: defeated narrowly 54% to 46%

bullet 1992: California: Defeated narrowly 54% to 46%

bullet 1998: Michigan: Defeated overwhelmingly 71% to 29%

bullet 2000: Maine: Defeated very narrowly 51% to 49%.

Between 1994 and 2016, there have been in excess of 75 legislative bills to legalize PAS in at least 21 states. Almost all failed to become law. 4

Typically, these laws require a person to have a terminal illness that will probably cause their death within six months. Also, they have to prove that they are not depressed and are capable of making a rational decision.

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For frequent updates on assisted suicide topics, consult:

  • The Death with Dignity National Center (DDNC) is a pro-choice agency. They issue periodic newsletters covering recent developments on this topic. See http://www.deathwithdignity.org/ to view the most recent newsletter and/or to sign up for Email updates.

  • The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is a pro-life agency that opposes physician assisted suicide. They have a list of recent news items on their home page at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletIntroduction to Euthanasia, Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) & Physician Assisted Suicide (PAS):

bullet Definitions of terms related to euthanasia
 
bullet The verbal battle
 
bullet Ethical aspects
 
bullet Policies of various faith groups
 
bullet Public opinion. A novel advertising campaign
 
bulletEuthanasia and Terri  Schiavo

bullet About living wills
 
bulletDoes the availability of PAS actually increase pain experienced by dying patients?
 
bulletWeaknesses in some PAS laws

bulletStatus of euthanasia / PAS in:

bullet United States: Oregon law, U.S. Supreme Court decision, California, Montana, Vermont, Washington, recent events, etc.
 
bullet

Australia:

bullet

Canada: Public opinion. First Supreme Court ruling. Second Supreme Court ruling. Parliamentary activity.


bullet The Netherlands (Holland)
 
bulletThe UK: England, Scotland, Wales:
bullet 1999 to 2006
bullet 2007 to now
 
bullet Elsewhere in the world
 
bullet Links to web sites
 
bullet Books 

Related essays in this web site:

bulletSuicide

bullet Suicide passages in the Bible

bullet Criminalizing suicide information sources

bullet Sources of information on suicide methods on the Internet

bulletThe medical management of pain

Full disclosure:

The author of this section had his 82nd birthday just before Christmas in 2018, and is in good health. To him, end of life issues have taken on a personal aspect. Being an Agnostic, he sees no evidence for the existence of an afterlife. He does not fear death. He does not fear being dead. However, he has considerable fear about the process of dying, For many people in North America is an agonizingly painful and lengthy process during which time one's enjoyment of life often drops to zero and becomes negative without any hope that it will return to positive territory. Fortunately for him, he lives in Canada which -- like all other developed countries except for the U.S. -- has universal health care. So he will receive competent medical attention. Unfortunately, pain management is often as poorly managed in Canada as it is in the U.S. He regards suicide as a civil right and would prefer that he have access to a means of suicide if life becomes unbearable. He thus strongly supports legalizing physician assisted suicide.

He is critical of all of the PAS laws that have been passed to date because they generally give access to assisted dying only to terminally ill people who are expected to die in the near future of natural causes. They do not do anything for people who experience chronic, overwhelming pain with no hope of relief for years. They also don't help people who are mentally or physically disabled to the point where continuing to live is intolerable.

He has attempted to remain impartial, objective and fair while writing these essays.

References used:

  1. "A Newsletter from the Honorable Sharon Carstairs, Senator For Manitoba," 1995-OCT, at: http://sen.parl.gc.ca/
  2. James Vicini, "Court rules govt. can't stop Oregon suicide law," Reuters News Agency, 2005-JAN-17, at: http://today.reuters.com/
  3. "Bishop Spong Q&A on Death with dignity," Agoramedia mailing, 2006-JAN-18.
  4. Kathi Hamlon, "Failed Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted-Suicide in the United States," International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, at: http://www.internationaltaskforce.org/
  5. "California," Death with Dignity, at: https://www.deathwithdignity.org/
  6. "Assisted suicide is now legal in Colorado," The Verge, 2016-NOV-08, at: https://www.theverge.com/
  7. "Hawaii law allowing medically assisted suicide takes effect, " WBNS-TV. 2019-JAN-03, at: https://www.10tv.com/
  8. Kristin Lam, "Maine legalizes medically assisted suicide, joining seven other states and District of Columbia," USA Today, 2019-JUN-12, at: https://www.usatoday.com/

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Copyright 1997 to 2019, by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated on 2019-JUN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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