5 Reasons Assisted Suicide Laws Are Wrong

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  1. Assisted suicide laws ignore the role of depression and anxiety in patients with a terminal diagnosis. Patients are not required to have even a basic psychological evaluation prior to receiving a prescription for lethal drugs. In California, terminally ill patients committed to mental institutions can request assisted suicide and be released so they can kill themselves.
  2. Assisted suicide laws discriminate against vulnerable patients, especially those who are poor or underinsured. Patients in Oregon have been refused chemotherapy, but their insurance companies will pay for so-called “aid-in-dying” drugs. Terminally ill patients are highly susceptible to even subtle suggestions that they are becoming too expensive or burdensome.
  3. Assisted suicide laws communicate the message that under challenging circumstances some lives are not worth living. This message is heard by not only those with a terminal illness but also by any person struggling with the temptation to end his or her life. Legalizing assisted suicide has been associated with a significant increase in total suicides.
  4. Assisted suicide laws encourage abuse by stripping those labeled terminally ill of essential legal protections. Deaths by assisted suicide are rarely, if ever, investigated. Patient death certificates do not state that patients died by lethal drugs, so law enforcement officials have no way of knowing whether a patient was coerced or forced into taking “aid-in-dying” drugs.
  5. Assisted suicide laws manipulate people by redefining terms. Per the statutory language, death by a self-administered overdose of barbiturates may not be not called suicide, but must be referred to as “assisted dying.” In California, patients seeking “assisted dying” are required to stipulate that taking lethal drugs will provide a “humane and dignified” death, even though the drugs frequently cause such side effects as vomiting and inhalation of vomit, severe anxiety or terror, extreme confusion, and gasping for air.

 

Life Legal has filed a lawsuit to stop California’s assisted suicide law. We represent six doctors—two oncologists, a palliative care specialist, a hospice physician, the associate medical director of a hospice facility, and a neurologist—as well as the American Academy of Medical Ethics, which includes 600 physicians in California.

Life Legal sued the California Director of Public Health and a District Attorney responsible for enforcing the Act. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has “intervened” in the lawsuit to uphold the End of Life Option Act, which means the Attorney General is now effectively a defendant.

Our lawsuit is opposed by “Compassion and Choices,” a pro-suicide lobbying organization that has received over well over $7 million from billionaire social engineer George Soros.

Please take a stand against the pro-death lobby by making a gift to Life Legal today! The next hearing in the assisted suicide lawsuit is scheduled for March 9 and we need your help to continue this vital litigation!

 

Trump Picks a Bioethicist for the Supreme Court

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“All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong…Once we open the door to excusing or justifying the intentional taking of life as ‘necessary,’ we introduce the real possibility that the lives of some persons (very possibly the weakest and most vulnerable among us) may be deemed less ‘valuable,’ and receive less protection from the law, than others.” Judge Neil Gorsuch

Yes! This is why Life Legal exists–to protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us.

From The Atlantic:

“Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, is deeply interested in matters of life and death. His most lasting legacy from his time on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals is likely Hobby Lobby vs. Sebelius, a case about religious objections to the rules on birth-control coverage in the Affordable Care Act, which later became a landmark Supreme Court decision.”

 

Cardinal Dolan Calls for Renewed Fight Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

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One more reason Life Legal is challenging the constitutionality of assisted suicide in California.

From LifeNews.com:

“Every suicide is tragic, whether someone is young or old, healthy or sick. But the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide creates two classes of people: those whose suicides are to be prevented at any cost, and those whose suicides are deemed a positive good. We remove weapons and drugs that can cause harm to one group, while handing deadly drugs to the other, setting up yet another kind of life-threatening discrimination. This is completely unjust. Our inherent human dignity does not wane with the onset of illness or incapacity, and so all are worthy of protection.”

Read the article here.

A Conversation About Assisted Suicide

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JOIN LIFE LEGAL for a webcast featuring Bishop Robert Barron and Pastor Rick Warren discussing why assisted suicide is wrong and how to cope with difficult end of life circumstances in a way that respects human dignity and the sanctity of life.

Noted psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Life Legal attorney Steve Larson will also be on the webcast to talk about Life Legal’s challenge to California’s assisted suicide law.

Click here for more information and to register.

A Disabled Life Is A Life Worth Living

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imageAuthor Ben Mattlin has written a profound article on the value of life with a disability, partly in response to the suicide of Jerika Bolen, a 14-year-old Wisconsin girl who ended her life by refusing medical treatment. Mattlin has Spinal Muscular Atrophy–the same disability Bolen had.

“I dare not judge Jerika Bolen. I don’t know the entirety of her situation. But I do wish she had found the will to live. I’m saddened — as were many others with S.M.A, and some disability rights groups — to think others might grow so weary or apprehensive that they follow her example. I hope she received the same level of intervention any other suicidal 14-year-old would. I wish I could have told her about the psychological alchemy that can turn frustration into an internal fuel. If I’d had the chance I would have told her that society needs its disabled people, too.”

Read the full article here.

Photo Source: Facebook

 

 

Partial Victory in Assisted Suicide Lawsuit

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Life Legal attorneys, led by Katie Short, appeared in court this morning to argue for a preliminary injunction that would block implementation of California’s assisted suicide law.

The following issues were ruled on by Judge Daniel A. Ottolia at this morning’s hearing:

“Standing”: VICTORY! The judge held that our plaintiffs, six physicians and a nationwide medical group comprised of thousands of doctors, have “standing” to sue on behalf of their patients. Standing is the capacity of a party to bring a lawsuit. At the heart of standing “is the requirement that plaintiffs have sustained or will sustain direct injury or harm and that this harm is redressable” (Wex Legal Dictionary, Cornell University of Law). Without standing, a lawsuit cannot proceed, so Life Legal overcame a major hurdle today!

“Ripeness”: VICTORY! A claim is not “ripe” if it rests upon hypothetical or future events. Courts must adjudicate actual harms, not abstract ones. The judge held today that the case is ripe, which means he acknowledged that people could actually be harmed under the End of Life Option Act.

Preliminary Injunction: Life Legal sought to have the assisted suicide law “enjoined,” or suspended. Unfortunately, the judge denied our motion. He was unclear as to the substantive reasons behind his decision, but said the state should be able to facilitate the “right” of terminally ill individuals to commit suicide.

Life Legal has obtained a death certificate from one of the first deaths by lethal prescription which shows that that the doctor who prescribed the drugs had only known the patient for three weeks. One of our many concerns about the law is that it will create popup clinics that only exist to help people kill themselves. It seems this is has already happened.

Our next court appearance will be on December 5. Please pray, as the End of Life Option Act is a dangerous law that has already resulted in loss of life.

Our fight against California’s assisted suicide law is just beginning, and it will be expensive. Already Compassion and Choices, the Soros-funded assisted suicide organization that choreographed Brittany Maynard’s very public suicide, has joined forces with the state to defend the law.

You can be part of this history-making and life-saving lawsuit by making a donation to Life Legal today!

Life Legal Fights Legalized Killing

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Last week, Life Legal had the opportunity to meet three heroes in the fight against the legalization of assisted suicide: 30-year-old former U.S. Marine JJ Hanson, his wife Kristen Hanson, and Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist with the University of California at Irvine’s Neuropsychiatric Center.

In 2014, both Brittany Maynard and JJ Hanson were diagnosed with the same form of aggressive brain cancer. Like Maynard, Hanson was told he only had a few months to live.

While Brittany chose to spend her remaining days looking for a doctor who could end her life, JJ sought a doctor willing to provide treatment—and found one. He underwent an extremely risky surgery to remove the tumors. While the procedure itself went well, JJ suffered complication that nearly ended his life. He endured chemotherapy, radiation, and a new experimental therapy.

During those dark days, JJ became clinically depressed and questioned whether he wanted to go on living. He now realizes how vulnerable patients are as they are wrestling with a devastating diagnosis—and how easy it would have been to give up, had “aid-in-dying” drugs been available to him.

Two years later, JJ’s cancer is in remission. JJ and Kristen are now working to oppose assisted suicide laws in New York.

Dr. Aaron Kheriaty is a declarant in Life Legal’s lawsuit against California’s “End of Life Option Act.” He has been an active opponent of assisted suicide laws across the nation. As a psychiatrist, Dr. Kheriaty has researched the links between serious illness, depression, and suicide and found that 80-90% of all suicides are associated with depression or other treatable mental disorders. California’s End of Life Option Act does not require patients to undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to obtaining a lethal prescription. Dr. Kheriaty believes this lack of evaluation constitutes medical negligence.

“The law is a teacher: Laws shape the ethos of a culture by affecting cultural attitudes toward certain behaviors and influencing moral norms. Laws permitting physician-assisted suicide send a message that, under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living.” —Dr. Aaron Kheriaty

LAWSUIT UPDATE: State Attorney General Kamala Harris has now intervened and will submit her reply to the lawsuit this week.

Please consider making a donation today to help Life Legal fight California’s assisted suicide law and to send the message that life is worth protecting.

Life Legal Files Lawsuit to Stop Assisted Suicide Law

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The Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit today challenging California’s physician-assisted suicide law, the “End of Life Option Act.” The lawsuit was filed in the California Superior Court in Riverside County.

The civil rights lawsuit alleges Equal Protection violations of individuals labeled terminally ill and was filed by five physicians in southern California and by the American Academy of Medical Ethics (AAME), which represents more than 600 California doctors and over 2 million patients. AAME has 15,000 physician members nationwide. The individual physicians include two oncologists, a neurologist, as well as palliative care and hospice physicians, all seeking to protect the rights of their patients.

The Act decriminalizes physician-assisted suicide and instantly removes criminal law, elder abuse, and mental-health legal protections from any individual deemed terminally ill, despite the inherent uncertainty and frequently inaccurate nature of such a prognosis.  In contrast, all non-terminally ill Californians enjoy Penal Code § 401 protection, which makes it a felony to aid, advise, or encourage another to commit suicide. They also enjoy other legal protections against suicide, including being placed on 72-hour (to 30-day) mental-health holds to protect them from self harm.

California’s assisted suicide law does not require labeled individuals seeking a lethal prescription to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, so patients with untreated depression and suicidal ideation can be prescribed lethal drugs. A large body of psychiatric research has demonstrated that 80-90% of all suicides are associated with depression or other treatable mental disorders. The California Department of Public Health Care Services assumes that only two percent of Medi-Cal patients likely to request the lethal drugs will be referred for psychiatric counseling and set the state budget accordingly.

“We are asking the court to uphold civil and criminal laws that should apply equally to all Californians, including laws that protect people from self-harm and elder abuse laws. The End of Life Option Act is irreparably flawed as it removes crucial protections from individuals who are most susceptible to depression, abuse, and coercion,” said Alexandra Snyder, Executive Director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. “The Act provides virtually no safeguards for labeled individuals who may suffer from untreated mental illness or mood disorders and grants full immunity for doctors to participate in the killing of their most vulnerable patients.”

The End of Life Option Act also incentivizes the creation of Kevorkian-like suicide pipelines. Doctors who prescribe the drugs do not have to have a prior relationship with patients and are thus free to prey on vulnerable patients—including those who are mentally ill—as they would be immune from nearly all civil and criminal liability under the Act.

Under the Act, “terminal illness” includes any condition that, if left untreated, would cause death within six months. This encompasses many types of illnesses—even those that can be successfully treated—if the patient decides to forego treatment. Moreover, predicting life expectancy is crude and fraught with subjective judgment.  Physicians’ predictions for life-expectancy are frequently wrong.

To read the complaint, click here: End of Life Option Act Conformed Complaint

 

Do Assisted Suicide Laws Promote Suicide?

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  1. Assisted suicide laws communicate the message that under especially difficult circumstances, some lives are not worth living. This message will be heard by not only those with a terminal illness but also any person struggling with the temptation to end his or her life.
  2. Suicide rates constitute a public health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults and the tenth leading cause of death overall for individuals over the age of ten. Legalizing assisted suicide will worsen this crisis. It sends a message to teens and young adults that suicide is an appropriate response to difficult life circumstances.
  3. In October 2015, a study was published in the Southern Medical Journal showing that legalizing physician assisted suicide was associated with a 6.3% increase in total suicides, including assisted suicides.[1] The increase in total suicides among individuals 65 years and older was 14.5%. This is contrary to the assertions of Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, who suggested that legalizing assisted suicide “might actually reduce the number of suicides and postpone the suicides that occur.”[2]
  4. The “Werther Effect,” which refers to the increase in clusters of suicides after publicized cases of suicide, is well validated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the U.S. Surgeon General have published strict journalistic guidelines for reporting on suicides to minimize this effect. Unfortunately, these guidelines were ignored in the case of Brittany Maynard, whose suicide was portrayed in the media as inspiring and even heroic.
  5. The number of deaths from assisted suicide in Oregon was 37% percent higher in October than the 2014 average. After Maynard’s death on November 1, 2014, deaths from assisted suicide spiked in November, rising 71.4% above the 2014 average.
  6. The overall suicide rate in Oregon has risen dramatically following the legalization of assisted suicide there. As of 2010, suicide rates were 35% higher in Oregon than the national average.
  7. Studies show that when an individual receives intervention during a crisis—for example, during the months of difficult adjustment after a new diagnosis of a serious or terminal disease—his or her risk of suicide is substantially decreased.
  8. Belgium and Switzerland, where assisted suicide is practiced, have the highest and second-highest suicide rates in Western Europe.
  9. In contrast to the “Werther Effect,” the publication of cases that convey a message of hope and perseverance in the face of adversity is associated with decreased suicide rates. This is known as the “Papageno Effect.”
  10. In the midst of suffering and decline we can still find courage, hope and even beauty. True compassion and mercy involve walking this difficult journey with our loved ones — a journey in which there simply are no shortcuts.

[1] Jones, DA and Paton, D. How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Raters of Suicide? South Med J. 2015; 108(10):599-604.

[2] Posner, RA. Aging and Old Age. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.