The number of people participating in physician-assisted suicide in Washington State has reached the highest number ever recorded.
This latest example of the slippery slope can be seen in the State’s 2018 report on participation in its Death with Dignity Act.
What do the figures show?
In total, 267 individuals were given lethal doses of medication in 2018 and these were dispensed by 158 different physicians and 61 different pharmacists. This is an increase of 25.9% when compared with the figures for 2017.
Among the 267 participants, 251 have died but the status of the other 16 was unknown at the time of the report. The youngest participant was just 28 years old and the oldest was 98.
In total, 75 per cent of participants had cancer and the report showed that complications, such as regurgitation, seizures or awakening, arose in eight cases.
In total, 238 participants completed After Death Reporting Forms. More than half – 51% - of those who completed After Death Forms cited a fear of being a burden on friends, family or caregivers as a reason.
The Washington State Death with Dignity Act came into force on 5 March 2009. Under the law, adult residents with six months or less to live can request lethal doses of medication from a physician. The first report showed 65 participants and 64 known deaths under the new law.
Increasing numbers of those seeking an assisted suicide is one key part of the slippery slope argument. Generally, the trend in jurisdictions where physician-assisted suicide is legal is that year-on-year the numbers go up. This is born out in Washington state where the latest report for 2018 shows the number of participants is the highest ever.
It is also hugely significant that more than half – 51% - cite a fear of being a burden as a concern. Under the law in Washington state there is no legal requirement for a psychiatric or psychological evaluation of the patient.
Assisted suicide risks are too great
We continue to believe that the risks associated with legalising assisted suicide are too high. Giving doctors the power to prescribe lethal doses of drugs to enable patients to kill themselves is not compassionate. It would send the wrong message to those suffering with chronic or terminal illnesses and those with disabilities.
Life is valuable and should be protected and supported, from conception through to its natural end. High quality palliative care is one key response to suffering at the end of life.
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