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07/28/2016

Some California Physicians are trying to fight back against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

The Wall Street Journal op-ed page this week carried an offering (subscription required) from one Dr. Philip Driesbach, a cancer doctor in California who is one of six plaintiffs on a lawsuit attempting to block California’s new “End of Life Options Act,” which went into effect July 9.  Dr. Driesbach’s article covers several key points:

  • ·       By allowing such individuals as potential heirs and the owners of caregiving facilities to be formal witnesses to a request for aid in dying—something the law prohibits them from doing if the document in question is a will—the law removes protections from vulnerable people.
  • ·       The law does not require psychological referral—and hence screening for coercion or easily treatable conditions—unless there are clear signs of mental illness. 
  • ·       “Killing is never medical care,” and doctor-assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer,” a position still affirmed by the American Medical Association.
  • ·       There is no compelling reason to compel doctors, as opposed to others, to take on the role of “agent of death.”
  • ·       There is something contradictory about asking the medical community, which has objected to participating in capital punishment, to become the agents of hastening peoples’ deaths.  (Dr. Driesbach actually said, “killing the innocent” here—I’m sanitizing, perhaps unnecessarily.)
  • ·       He cited the 2015 testimony of Dr. William Toffler of Oregon, who stated that doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon operates under “a shroud of secrecy” under which getting accurate data about the practice is “impossible” unless one works for the Oregon Health Division.

Rather, Dr. Driesbach charges that the push for doctor-assisted suicide is part of a social campaign, a “necro-political” movement, funded by rich donors who are quick to invoke equal protection under the law in other contexts but ignore it here.  I think he’s right.

A similar lawsuit has been filed in Vermont against that state’s law. Not everyone in the medical profession is supine before the doctor-assisted suicide juggernaut.

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