On Thursday, April 5, 2018, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill legalizing doctor-prescribed suicide (DPS) in the state in 2019. Hawaii has joined four other states in passing legislation to allow doctors to give lethal drugs to patients.
Personal autonomy is quickly becoming the sole lodestar of society. Euthanasia and suicide advocates sell these legal efforts as the ultimate in personal autonomy: controlling your own death. Despite this seemingly natural fit of idea to ideology, DPS activists continue to face an uphill climb. Past legalization efforts in Hawaii failed, year after year, and current efforts continue to fail in other states, including Michigan.
This resistance is because even people who might otherwise support DPS understand that there are grave dangers to handing out poison to people. Many doctors and medical institutions who might otherwise embrace suicide as another step in consumer medicine share these grave concerns.
DPS advocates go to great pains to stress that “safeguards” exist to prevent potential abuses. Too often these “safeguards” are taken at face value, or aren’t thoroughly explained. Coverage of Hawaii’s bill in The Hill provides an excellent example. In an article Friday, reporter Reid Wilson puts it this way: “There are several provisions built into the law as safeguards to mollify those who worried that the system could be abused.”
What abuses? Who are the people who will be mollified by the law? We aren’t provided with those details.
The article describes these several provisions, implying all those concerned will be mollified by them. One safeguard is described this way: “Two doctors must confirm that the patient is terminally ill with less than six months to live.”
What goes unmentioned is that an easily treatable condition like diabetes qualifies as a terminal disease, under these laws, because patients who go without insulin for six months may die within six months.
Before passage several amendments were added to Hawaii’s law based on other concerns, but significant abuses remain unaddressed. Here’s a big one: when health insurance companies are faced with choosing between covering a patient’s expensive medical treatment and paying for a dose of relatively cheap barbiturates, what will they offer the patient? That isn’t just a potential concern; it has happened in Oregon, the pioneer of doctor-prescribed suicide.
Examples of unavoidable abuses involved with doctor-prescribed suicide are legion, both in America and especially overseas. These concerns go unheeded, however, when they are downplayed or ignored.