And how do they suggest that this hurdle between diagnosis and prescription be overcome?
Take the doctor out of doctor-prescribed suicide by setting up a government-facilitated process that will make it easier for patients to cross the River Styx. As they explain:
We envision the development of a central state or federal mechanism to confirm the authenticity and eligibility of patients’ requests, dispense medication, and monitor demand and use. Such a mechanism would obviate physician involvement beyond usual care.
They see this as a way of overcoming the reluctance of most doctors to assist in suicide, while they remain oblivious (or indifferent) to protecting the lives of vulnerable patients.
As they accurately explain, under Oregon’s and Washington’s laws, the patient’s doctor confirms the prognosis, explains alternatives for treatment and care to the patient, and then writes the lethal suicide prescription. In their plan, the doctor would bow out of the process before writing the prescription: “Prognosis and treatment options are part of standard clinical discussions, so if a physician certifies that information in writing, patients could conceivable go to an independent authority to obtain the prescription.” At that point, the patient could simply go to a suicide-prescribing clinic. “Patients could also provide an independent authority with their medical record as proof of their prognosis.”
Could this work?
Yes, without question.
Many states already permit nurse-practitioners to prescribe barbiturates (the same drugs prescribed in intentionally lethal amounts for suicide in Washington and Oregon). Removing the requirement that the prescription for suicide be doctor-prescribed would certainly be possible.
While there might be initial objections to leaving the doctor out a crucial step in the process, it should be noted that state-issued annual reports in both Washington and Oregon indicate that reported assisted-suicide cases do not involve the close doctor-patient relationship that advocates of the practice promised would occur.
For example, in Oregon, the length of time for the doctor-patient relationship before writing the lethal prescription has been under one week in some reported cases. Even in cases where the patient has been in the care of the prescribing doctor, once the prescription is written, the doctor may have no further contact with the patient. Prescribing doctors have been present at the time of the patients’ death from the prescribed overdose in fewer than seven percent of reported cases.
Details of how the newly proposed system would work were revealed by Dr. Lehmann in an interview with ABC News. She explained that doctors would only be responsible for making the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Then, the patient should be able to pick up the lethal drugs from a government-authorized, all-purpose location where a government bureaucrat would determine the patient’s eligibility for a death prescription.
In addition to soothing the sensibilities — and deadening the consciences — of doctors, moving physicians into the background would have another effect. It would increase the number of assisted suicides.
Let’s consider this for a moment. Do we really think that a government that is constantly looking for ways to contain health care costs will be likely to deny death eligibility? Do we think that government death-control officials will do the right thing — or the cheap thing?
Take this proposal, coupled with government-run health care, and you have “death panels on steroids.”
Like we said, if you want to see what direction things are going in health care, just read the professional journals.