CMDA's The Point

Assisted Suicide Trend Portends Thousands of Deaths

February 25, 2016
Photo credit: Army Medicine on VisualHunt.com / CC BY

by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Though I have two in my extended family, I never wanted to be a lawyer. But I admit, I have desired more legal knowledge over the last few months as CMDA has taken legal action as a last resort to deal with threats to our members and our patients.

We took this last recourse in California where many say, “as California goes, ultimately, the country goes.” There is a good bit of truth in that statement. California is our largest state with a population of 40 million and has significant influence across the country. That is why CMDA and other groups have fought so vigorously for more than 15 years to thwart attempts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in California. I’ve personally crisscrossed the state many times warning about legalizing death on demand and its danger to patients, their families, healthcare professionals and society. On one trip, I spoke 28 times in four and a half days to healthcare professionals, legislators, churches and the media. For many years these efforts were successful.

Emboldened by Brittany Maynard’s story, Compassion & Choices executed a full court press in a “let’s break all the rules to win” campaign in the legislature last summer. Their legalization initiative had been defeated during the regular legislative session, b

Excerpted from “According to Oregon’s Numbers, Here’s What Will Happen If Assisted Suicide Is Legalized Nationwide,” The Daily Signal commentary by Kelsey Harkness, February 12, 2016 – An annual report examining physician-assisted suicide trends in Oregon shows a growing number of individuals seeking to die under the state’s Death with Dignity Act.

“In the past two years the number of deaths as a result of physician-assisted suicide in Oregon has nearly doubled,” said Ryan T. Anderson, who researches and writes on physician-assisted suicide at The Heritage Foundation. “In the past 15 years, the number has increased six-fold. If physician-assisted suicide is allowed in other states, we are likely to see a similar growth in the number of deaths by suicide across the U.S.”

In 2015, the Oregon Public Health Division reported that 132 people died using physician-assisted suicide, compared to 105 the previous year. The number of people who received the life-ending prescription increased from 155 in 2014 to 215 in 2015. If the rate of physician-assisted suicide deaths in California were the same as Oregon’s rate, that would result in 2,118 deaths a year. Advocates for physician-assisted suicide attribute the rising numbers to a growing acceptance among doctors to prescribe the life-ending drugs.

“As more physicians recognize that a small percentage of terminally ill adults experience unbearable suffering that no medical treatment can relieve, they are more accepting of voluntary requests for aid in dying medication,” Sean Crowley, media relations director at Compassion and Choices, told The Daily Signal.

“The current numbers are not the ceiling; they’re the launching pad. Once a society or a state or a culture starts accepting this agenda, the numbers go up,” said Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and consultant to the Patients Rights Council.

Those who oppose “Death with Dignity” laws look to Europe, where three countries—the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland—allow assisted suicide for non-terminal illnesses, including psychiatric disorders like depression and schizophrenia. A study published Wednesday by JAMA Psychiatry raised serious concerns among opponents, finding that 56 percent of people who were prescribed life-ending drugs refused treatment that could have helped their condition.


Commentary

CMDA CEO David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics): “With zealous fervor, Compassion & Choices is going beyond their unrelenting, well-funded efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide in more states. They are also laboring to normalize and promote it in the minds of physicians, other healthcare professionals, hospital ethics committees, the elderly and the media. Before California’s new law even takes effect, they are blanketing the state with promotional materials and speakers to convince everyone how heroic and noble it is to take a handful of lethal pills.

“What good is legalizing physician-assisted suicide if no one exercises this new ‘right?’ The need to market physician-assisted suicide undermines the credibility of advocates who insist on how much it is needed. What if no one kills himself or herself in the first year? This happened in Vermont after legalizing the practice.

“Compassion & Choices desires to break down any other fences that could constrain physician-assisted suicide. California’s new law makes all records having to do with physician-assisted suicide undiscoverable for legal purposes–to shield proponents and healthcare providers involved. (I deliberately don’t call them professionals.) Barbara Coombs Lee, the head of Compassion & Choices, extolled the court decision in Canada that not only allowed physician-assisted suicide but also euthanasia by lethal injection. She is delighted that they desire to force physicians to refer their patients if the physicians won’t participate otherwise.

“After fighting physician-assisted suicide legalization for more than 20 years on behalf of CMDA’s members, it is obvious to me that there is no desire by its promoters to account for a ‘small percentage’ of deaths. No, they want us to allow it, then endorse it and finally participate in it.

“We shouldn’t be surprised. Death cults are like that.”

 

Action

Check this list of states considering legalizing assisted suicide.

If your state is included on this list of state legislative issues, will you join in your local state efforts to help stem the tide and defeat physician-assisted suicide? Contact communications@cmda.org to get involved.

 

Resources
Physician-Assisted Suicide Fact Sheet
CMDA Physician-Assisted Suicide Ethics Statement
State Legislative Issues
David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

About David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)

Dr. David Stevens, author of Jesus, MD, Beyond Medicine and co-author of Leadership Proverbs and Servant Leadership and serves as CEO Emeritus of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a national organization of Christian healthcare professionals that seeks to change hearts in healthcare. Founded in 1931, CMDA promotes positions and addresses policies on healthcare issues; conducts overseas and domestic mission projects; coordinates a network of Christian healthcare professionals for fellowship and professional growth; sponsors student ministries in medical and dental schools; distributes educational and inspirational resources; holds marriage and family conferences; provides missionary healthcare professionals with continuing education resources and conducts academic exchange programs overseas. At CMDA, Dr. Stevens has helped develop an evangelism training program that teaches thousands of healthcare professionals how to share their faith in a healthcare setting. He was a catalyst for starting the Global Missions Healthcare Conference, trains new healthcare missionaries three times a year and annually leads a summit for executives of mission organization doing healthcare ministry. He has also helped launch a nationwide network of community-based ministries that provide on-site discipleship, fellowship and outreach opportunities for local healthcare professionals and students. As a leading spokesman for Christian healthcare professionals, Dr. Stevens has conducted thousands of media interviews, including NBC's Today Show, NBC Nightly News, BBC-World Television, Newsweek, JAMA, USA Today, CNN Sunday Morning, CNN News Site and National Public Radio. He has also appeared on FOX Family Channel, PAX-Television, Tech TV, The Odyssey Channel, America's Health Network and many other national outlets. He has written many book chapters and magazine articles. Prior to becoming a Zondervan author, he wrote a regular health column for the Promise Keepers' New Man magazine and served on the editorial board of Christian Single magazine. Dr. Stevens is also heard as host of the CMDA Healthwise Public Service Announcements, which address general health and bioethical issues and airs on radio stations nationwide. CMDA members hear him as the host of the popular Christian Doctor’s Digest audio magazine, which has featured national leaders such as Luis Lugo, Jim Cymbala, Newt Gingrich, John Stonestreet and Kay Arthur. Prior to his service with CMDA, Dr. Stevens served as director of World Medical Mission. In Somalia, Dr. Stevens led an emergency medical mission that treated 45,000 suffering Somalis in the midst of war. In the Sudan, medical teams under his leadership treated more than 25,000 villagers to stop the spread of an epidemic. Dr. Stevens has seen firsthand how meeting the physical needs of patients provides opportunities to meet their spiritual needs—by introducing them to God’s love through a relationship with Jesus Christ. From 1981 to 1991, Dr. Stevens was a missionary doctor at Tenwek Hospital in Bomet, Kenya where he served as Medical Superintendent and then Exeuctive Officer. He helped to develop Tenwek from a bush hospital to one of the most outstanding mission facilities in the world. At Tenwek, he directed a $4 million development plan, secured the installation of an $850,000 hydroelectric plant, oversaw the start of a nursing school and doubled the size of the hospital. The community healthcare and development programs he designed at Tenwek are currently reaching more than one million Kenyans and serve as an example of what medical outreach in the developing world can accomplish. Dr. Stevens’ experiences provide rich illustrations for inspirational and educational presentations at seminars, conferences and churches. His topics include missions and evangelism, spiritual commitment and growth, bioethics and other medically and spiritually related subjects. Dr. Stevens holds degrees from Asbury University and is an AOA graduate of University of Louisville School of Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He earned a master’s degree in bioethics from Trinity International University in 2002 and served on the boards of World Gospel Mission and Asbury University. He has regularly taught at the Christian Medical & Dental Associations' educational seminars for missionary physicians and dentists in Kenya, Malaysia and other forums. He is a Fellow of the Biotechnology Policy Council of the Wilberforce Forum and helped found the National Embryo Donation Center. Dr. Stevens and his wife Jody have a son, Jason, and two daughters, Jessica and Stacy, and nine grandchildren, all of who are involved in domestic or international healthcare ministry.

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