Killing isn’t caring

by William Toffler, Citizen, December 2015

Dr Toffler has practised medicine in Oregon for the last 36 years. Since assisted suicide was legalised in the state 20 years ago he has seen “a profound shift in the public’s attitude toward medical care”. His opposition to assisted suicide is personal as well as professional: last year his wife Marlene died of cancer: “While I treasure all our years together, the last five were among the best.”

Promoters of assisted suicide prefer euphemisms—”death with dignity” or “choice in dying”—and point to Oregon as a model for spreading assisted suicide to other states. They claim Oregon’s safeguards work and there have been no problems. This is not true. Their use of euphemisms and repetition of false claims cannot hide the reality.

In truth, there is a shroud of secrecy enveloping the practice. Doctors do not accurately report the actual manner of death on the death certificate. Instead, they are required by state law to fabricate the cause of death stating that the cause is “natural” rather than suicide. 

In fact, in late 1997, just before assisted suicide was about to be implemented, the legislature introduced a system using two different death certificates (one that is public with no medical information and a separate one that is never made public). Thus, it’s impossible for anyone outside of the Oregon Health Division (OHD) to track the statistics. 

What little tracking is done is only by second- (or even third-) hand reporting by doctors who are rarely actually present when the overdose is taken. There is never any review or verification of the details provided. Even this questionable identifying data is deliberately destroyed by the OHD after a tally is made. Where else in the medical profession are records deliberately destroyed?

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