Friday, March 11, 2011

The Allusion of Assisted Suicide in WA State

In its recent Assisted Suicide report, the Department of Health reported that 87 people received lethal doses of medications under the Act and 71 individuals died. 51 people reportedly died after ingesting the lethal dose and 15 died from other causes.

The Department of Health does not know if the remaining 6 people died of assisted suicide or not. The Department of Health also has no idea about the status for the 15 remaining people who requested lethal medications-whether they are alive or dead, whether they died from natural causes or from assisted suicide.

There seems to be at least some problem with the accuracy of the reporting (and the timeliness of required documentation) if 15 people out of 87 cannot be accounted for. Of even greater concern is what the numbers don't, and can't, reveal.

True Compassion Advocates' President Eileen Geller noted, "The published data from the 2010 report is so limited and unreliable that even some who agree with the policy have qualms regarding the DOH's inability to determine whether the law operates with the full safety and voluntariness its proponents promised."

Geller continued, "Washington voters thought they were getting a law to assure choice-what they've received is something entirely different, a law which has in some instances has become a recipe for elder abuse and a vehicle for financial coercion."

The report, which doesn't even address whether the administration of the lethal dose was voluntary, has significant gaps. Instead, Washington's 2010 report on doctor prescribed death focuses on the "ingestion" of the lethal dose. "Ingestion" as described in the report does not require a patient's consent, competency, or even awareness.

"What the numbers in the report don't show is what really needs reporting," said Geller. "Assisted suicide in Washington is neither safe nor voluntary for those who feel coerced, can't afford proper health care, or are victims of unreported elder abuse."

True Compassion Advocates - True Compassion Advocates (TCA) offers education, resources, and support during aging, illness, and disability. We foster awareness about, and prevention of, suicide, doctor prescribed death, and elder abuse. We support safe and effective care, positive health care choices, and compassionate communities.

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