Assisted Suicide Laws

DREDF, along with numerous other nationally prominent disability organizations, opposes the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Legalization is a serious mistake for many reasons that are not always immediately apparent. Supporters often focus solely on issues of choice and self-determination, but actually, legalization would restrict choice and self-determination.

It is crucial to look deeper. For example, assisted suicide would be a deadly mix with our broken, profit-driven health care system.

It is imperative to distinguish personal wishes from the significant dangers to society of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy. The legalization of assisted suicide has many harmful consequences.

Find out why DREDF regards the legalization of assisted suicide as a dangerous mistake.

See below regarding assisted suicide. Or read about the dangerous campaign by assisted suicide proponents for so-calledEnd-of-Life-Care / Patients Right to Know Acts.”

A. By DREDF

  1. Read DREDF’s updated statement, Why Assisted Suicide Must Not Be Legalized.
  2. See short DREDF handout summarizing our Key Objections to the Legalization of Assisted Suicide.
  3. Read about So-called Safeguards and Minimal Oversight: The Assisted Suicide Law in Oregon
  4. Presentation to the Older Women’s League (PDF), January 2015.
  5. This Legislative Primer (PDF) provides information for members of state legislatures considering bills to legalize assisted suicide.
  6. DREDF’s overview of the assisted suicide issue, Killing Us Softly: The Dangers of Legalizing Assisted Suicide (PDF), was published in the Disability and Health Journal, January 2010.
  7. Read Op Eds by DREDF staff and board members:
    1. An op ed at CNN.com, “The danger of assisted suicide laws
    2. An Op-Ed by DREDF board member Ann Cupolo-Freeman, January 31, 2015
    3. An Op Ed targeted at progressive readers in Beyond Chron, April 12, 2005
    4. An Op Ed, “What You Don’t Know Can Kill You,” in the Sacramento, California Capitol Weekly, April 26, 2007
    5. An Op Ed in the San Jose Mercury News, March 1, 2007

B. Other Short Handouts

  1. Some Oregon and Washington State Assisted Suicide Abuses and Complications.
  2. Margaret Dore’s important article from the King County Bar Association (Seattle, Washington) about how assisted suicide increases elder abuse and decreases self-determination.
  3. Leaflet in English and Spanish (PDF) summarizing the serious problems of assisted suicide laws. Developed by Not Dead Yet and DREDF.
  4. Statement of The Arc Maryland (PDF) about the risks to people with intellectual & developmental disabilities (ID/DD)
  5. Attempts to Legalize Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide in the United States shows the many failed attempts to legalize assisted suicide, and the few that have succeeded.
  6. Lists of national and California disability organizations that oppose the legalization of assisted suicide.
    1. List of national disability organizations
    2. List of California disability organizations
  7. Belgian doctors killing patients who have not asked to die
  8. A doctor in the Netherlands warns, Don’t make our mistake. (PDF)
  9. Terminal Uncertainty, article from Seattle Weekly, showing how frequently doctors’ prognoses of terminal illness are wrong.
  10. Assisted suicide would be fraught with problems and abuses, an excellent op-ed by Stephen Mendelsohn in the Connecticut Mirror
  11. The late Dr. Paul Longmore, Professor of History, San Francisco State University, compiled three leaflets about assisted suicide in Oregon:
    1. Spurious Safeguards
    2. Flimsy Reporting, No Regulation
    3. Pro-Suicide Doctors

C. Medical

  1. Read an important article from the Michigan Law Review, June 2008, entitled “Physician-Assisted Suicide in Oregon: A Medical Perspective” (PDF) which describes how “seemingly reasonable safeguards for the .. protection of terminally ill patients written into the Oregon law are being circumvented … primarily [due to] the Oregon Public Health Division, which is charged with monitoring the law.”

    The article was written by Dr. Herbert Hendin and Dr. Kathleen Foley. Herbert Hendin is Chief Executive Officer and Medical Director, Suicide Prevention International, and Professor of Psychiatry, New York Medical College. Kathleen Foley is Attending Neurologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Clinical Pharmacology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University; and Medical Director, International Palliative Care Initiative of the Open Society Institute.

  2. Read testimony by Dr. Gregory Hamilton focusing on problems posed by assisted suicide in Oregon for people with mental health disabilities. Dr. Hamilton is Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care.

    Also see Dr. Gregory Hamilton and Catherine Hamilton, M.A.’s article on the Michael Freeland case.

  3. Read testimony by Dr. Rex Greene to the California Medical Association in 2006. Dr. Greene is the former Medical Director of the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center at Mills Health Center in San Mateo, California; currently a member of the AMA Ethics Council; and a leader in bioethics, health policy and oncology.
  4. Read another article by Dr. Herbert Hendin about Oregon and the Netherlands in Psychiatric Times.
  5. Association of Northern California Oncologists & Medical Oncology Association of Southern California, Position Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide and Opposition to AB 374 (PDF), April 16, 2007.
  6. Letter by Dr. Herbert Hendin to New York state legislators (PDF), summarizing some of the problems with the Oregon Model.
  7. Op-Ed by Dr. William Toffler in the Wall Street Journal, with his perspective as an Oregon doctor on the flaws in Oregon’s law.
  8. Op-Ed by Dr. Robin Bernhoft about how assisted suicide can result from poor doctoring.
  9. Dr. Laura Petrillo explains who is at risk.
  10. Dr. Aaron Kheriaty describes the risk to people with mental health issues as well as the danger of suicide contagion, in his letter to the California Assembly.

D. Disability

  1. Read excellent article by Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet, on the website of the American Bar Association entitled “Assisted Suicide and Disability: Another Perspective,” (PDF) which lays out some basic tenets of the disability rights movement’s critique of the legalization of assisted suicide. Not Dead Yet represents the disability rights movement’s opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
  2. Read Diane Coleman’s opinion piece, The dangerous ‘help’ of assisted suicide (PDF), addressing why assisted suicide is a disability issue as well as its many problems and harms. It appeared on the New Jersey website NJ.com.
  3. Read Ken Barnes’ commentary, “Assisted suicide: Is it simply death over disability?,” (PDF) about disability prejudice, pressures toward assisted suicide, and the stories of his own family members. Ken Barnes is a former executive committee member of the California State Conference of the NAACP.
  4. Read Carol Gill’s excellent article in the Disability and Health Journal, January 2010, responding to distortions of disability rights arguments against assisted suicide (PDF).
  5. Read the disability rights brief to the Montana Supreme Court (PDF). The brief explains that there is no legitimate state interest, let alone a compelling one, for finding a constitutional right to assisted suicide for all or some (e.g. “terminal”) people with disabilities. It degrades the value and worth of people with disabilities and violates the rights enshrined in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  6. A Bioethicist Offers An Apology
  7. Killing with kindness: Why the Death With Dignity Act endangers people with disabilities (PDF)
    From the Boston Phoenix, by S.I. Rosenbaum

E. Suicide Contagion

  1. This anonymous letter from Ellen, a Californian with psychiatric disabilities who has struggled for many years with suicidality, was written to California senators. It explains compellingly why legalizing assisted suicide would send a green light to her and others that committing suicide is OK.
  2. Read A Deadly Model: Suicide Contagion (PDF) about why suicide contagion is another deadly consequence of assisted suicide laws.
  3. Read Dr. Will Johnston’s letter about a young adult who became suicidal after watching a video of Brittany Maynard.

F. Other Important Readings

  1. Read the brief from the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide to the Montana Supreme Court, which shows how assisted suicide in Oregon lacks transparency and provides a false sense of protection; health insurance programs will authorize assisted suicide over more costly medical treatment; and legalized assisted suicide masks domestic and elder abuse.
  2. See a chart showing Oregon Physician-Assisted Suicide: Theory vs. Practice, compiled by Dr. Robert D. Orr, President of the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Health Care.
  3. See a 2004 study from the Journal of Palliative Care showing a reduction in the quality of palliative care at end-of-life in Oregon since assisted suicide began.
    1. Press release about the study
    2. The study itself
  4. Read the book The Case Against Assisted Suicide – For the Right to End-of-Life Care, edited by Kathleen Foley, M.D., and Herbert Hendin, M.D., John Hopkins University Press, 2002, $26.95 in paperback. Two outstanding chapters are:
    1. Chapter 8, “Oregon’s Culture of Silence” by Dr. Gregory Hamilton. Dr. Hamilton is Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Co-founder of Physicians for Compassionate Care.
    2. Chapter 10, “Not Dead Yet” by Diane Coleman, President of Not Dead Yet.
  5. Excellent assisted suicide Op-Ed by Ben Mattlin.
  6. Read DREDF’s old statement against the legalization of assisted suicide.

G. Links

  1. Not Dead Yet (NDY)
  2. Patients RIghts Council
  3. Physicians for Compassionate Care (PCC)
  4. Californians Against Assisted Suicide
  5. California Disability Alliance (CDA)