by Kathryn Tucker, Jurist.Org, 15 December 2016
Ms Tucker is one of the most influential pro-euthanasia advocates in the United States, including more than 20 years working for Compassion & Choices.
In 2015 she co-wrote (with the University of Otago’s Professor Andrew Geddis) a journal article arguing that the New Zealand High Court could and should “distinguish between the sorts of intentional self-inflicted deaths we ordinarily think of as being ‘suicide’ (the lovesick teen, the family breadwinner facing financial crisis, etc.) and the act of a competent, terminally ill person”.
Last year she founded the End of Life Liberty Project.
In this blog post Ms Tucker makes clear that she believes the laws she helped pass in Oregon and California do not go nearly far enough in “normalising AID [Aid In Dying] within the practice of medicine.”
While in some ways these enactments are a step toward expanding end of life liberty, they impose heavy governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine, which is concerning because it creates barriers to patient access and to physician participation.
Take for example the fifteen-day waiting period in the statutory permissions. This is unreasonably long. A shorter period could ensure that a patient’s choice is reflective, carefully considered and enduring. Patients choosing AID do so because they find themselves in an unbearable dying process, concluding that the cumulative burden of suffering imposed by their end stage terminal illness is overwhelming. Forcing them to suffer longer seems unjustifiable. Moreover, some of these patients will be forever denied the right to choose aid in dying due to a rigid statutorily imposed fifteen-day waiting period, as they will die or become incapable of self-administration of the medication during that long period. If the practice of AID were to evolve subject to best practices, it is likely that a much shorter period for reflection would become standard of care.
Other elements of the statutory permissions for AID are problematic. For instance, they require patients seeking AID to make a written request in addition to two oral requests separated by a fifteen-day waiting period before the prescription can be provided. Patients must also see a consulting physician who must confirm a patient’s diagnosis, prognosis, and mental competence. These provisions delay when a patient can access AID. Delays operate to either deter some patients from seeking AID or prevent them from using it given the terminal and progressive nature of their illnesses.
Fewer requests in order to access AID, as well as allowing the assessment of an attending physician to be sufficient in determining the diagnosis, prognosis, and mental competence of a patient, might well be appropriate and should be considered in future enactments. Ideally, future enactments ought leave such to evolving standard of care and best practices.
Click here to read the full post.