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OREGON: The Only State That Finances Euthanasia For The Poor

Fact is, many of us are way cheaper dead than alive. I hear all about so-called safeguards against non-voluntary euthanasia, but as soon as your medical bills exceed your tax-paying productivity by $140 -- I wonder if that's annualized -- you, too, can qualify for better-off-dead status. Just so you know.
THE Doctor Kevorkian...?
THE Doctor Kevorkian...?
excerpted from the article "The Man Who Invented Normal"


Jack Kevorkian, a latter-day natural selection buff, has been jailed for his hobby, but a clinical brand of Kevorkian's compassion goes on sale in state referenda every election year. Health care rationing is official in only one state so far, Oregon, the same state that finances euthanasia for the poor. (The drug that gets the job done costs $140.) I don't think it's rash to infer a connection between managed care efficiencies and death by compassion. Fact is, many of us are way cheaper dead than alive. I hear all about so-called safeguards against non-voluntary euthanasia, but as soon as your medical bills exceed your tax-paying productivity by $140 -- I wonder if that's annualized -- you, too, can qualify for better-off-dead status. Just so you know.

And before you go signing a Do Not Resuscitate order, or one of those living wills, look hard into the eyes of the person you delegate to decide exactly when you're better off dead. Do not, repeat, NOT, pick a social scientist or even a social worker to play the part. Yeah, I know, you want to be spared the indignity of diapers. Note, though, that Walgreen's sells more Depends than aspirins. All that indignity out there on the hoof. Interesting.

One more note on dignity: When we segregate, sterilize, kill and deport what eugenics called "the inefficients," we're likely to do it in the name of their dignity. Insert moment of silence here, then take this metaphorical tangent. Down through the ages, as we closed the eyes of our dearly departed, were we preserving their dignity? Or preserving ourselves from their vacant stares? Check one.


Hmm 27.Jul.2003 03:24


"Note, though, that Walgreen's sells more Depends than aspirins."

Can that possibly be true? I don't think so. Everyone I know has aspirin, but in as much as I'm aware, noone in my circle lacks control of their bladder. Stil, I suppose if you're counting packages and not units, it might be true. You'd go through a box of depends a bit faster than jumbo-sized 500-count bottle of Aspirin. I'm still skeptical of whether that longevity of item argument could account for the difference in percentage of those buying aspirin and those buying depends. Not that it matters in the least.

On a somewhat more serious note, the article seems to be of the position that it's unnatural to want to die simply because you're disabled. That may or may not be true. Whether it is or it isn't, I certainly don't think it's fair for any one person to make that judgement for another. If people want to end their lives, they should be free to do so however they choose. The right to die is every bit as fundamental as the right to live.

As for it being more efficient for the state to kill rather than save, I'm not sure how that analysis works-out. In Oregon anyway, the Death with Dignity Act guarantees the right of physician assisted suicide only to the terminally ill. (Those not expected to live longer than 12 months, even with treatment). Significant legal bills could certainly be accrued in that timeframe I guess, but Death with Dignity provides no incentive for the state to kill chronically ill patients, such as those receiving dialysis, who are most costly.

If the state wanted to save money instead of treating patients, why would it provide treatment at all?

Better off in pain? 27.Jul.2003 04:15

Mike stepbystepfarm <a> mtdata.com

Of course nothing in the above article is actually about euthanasia for the poor. In reality, our society cares so little about the poor and downtrodden that the option of euthansia is NOT provided them. Instead they are allowed to die slowly -- starvation, lack of adequate medical care, etc. etc.

BUT -- since the author of this DOES apparently consider euthanasia a great evil let's talk about that subject. Obviously nobody should be "put down" who doesn't want to go yet. I'd be the last person to suggest that somebody who prefers hanging in there a few more hours or days in agony or in a vegetative state or drugged into insensibility should be denied that. On the other hand.....

Suppose they DIDN'T want to keep going just a little longer. What EXACTLY is the argument for doing so, for denying them the help they request? I for example, wouldn't do that to a dog. Please, I want to see your argument for not providing clearly requested euthansia. Your non-religious argument -- and that's NOT because I don't have religion too but maybe mine isn't the same as yours (you aren't arguing why it's wrong for YOU but wrong for anybody). Likewise don't bother with arguments about INVOLUNTARY euthansia because that's a separate problem, how to make sure voluntary is voluntary (we don't get to the mechanism" problem of how to make sure it's voluntary until AFTER we decide on the merits of voluntary euthansia).

But you CAN discuss whether different degrees of "aid" make a difference.

*right to die* translates to *right to be killed* as well as *right to suicide* 27.Jul.2003 12:22


Two able-bodied white men arguing against disabled peoples' rights. How typical. How disgusting. James and Mike, did you visit the links below the original post or did you just exercise your white-maleness to spout off immediately on things you don't understand? THINK - quit reacting for once.

James, call Walgreen's. Ask them.

There is a big difference between how a law is intended and what the laws effects actually are in the real world. There is nothing stopping even the most disabled people from killing themselves. It's very easy to do. Laws don't matter to those who really want to be dead.

So once again, I quote the disabled woman-of-color Lucy Gwin:

Too many do-gooders, especially the ones who call themselves progressives, believe they'd rather die than be disabled. They rush to make sure that imperfect folks like us have what they call the right to die. In fact, what's being debated is the medical practitioner's right to kill us without risking criminal prosecution.

That right means zero to us. If we want to die, there are plenty of ways to get the job done, ways that don't involve giving doctors a special license to kill special people like us. We are incurable. Get used to it.

Look at it this way: there are 53 million people with disabilities in the USA alone. If we were so desperate to die, we'd be dropping off high buildings, hitting the pavement like rain. You'd have to climb over heaps of dead cripples to get to the bus stop in the morning.

Even Mark O'Brien, a poet who spent forty years in an iron lung -- pretty "helpless" by anybody's measure -- wrote that he could figure out how to off himself if he was of a mind to do it. So it's not fair to say that people with disabilities need special help to die. Seems like the folks who most dread being like us are the ones most interested in having us put down like old dogs. If they're so worried over our quality of life, how come they worry so little about our equality of life?

When you know that America's health care system is market-driven, why would you put death in physicians' market-driven hands? It's a fact: most people with disabilities are cheaper dead than alive. Seventy percent of us are unemployed, for starters. Many of us live at the mercy of Medicaid, a fate we wouldn't wish on our worst enemies. (Most health care "providers" don't accept Medicaid or even Medicare for payment. They'll tell you straight out: the pay is too poor.) So when we get a bad cold, or a heart attack, we gotta go to public hospital emergency rooms for care.

The real world bears no resemblance to Chicago Hope.

In 1994, the state of Oregon figured out how to save the state major health care dollars by rationing care. The majority of ailments whose care the state labeled "ineffecient" (and thus unworthy of treatment) were not terminal illnesses but disabilities. Today Oregon Medicaid recipients, if they happen to be disabled and depressed, can mail-order a dose of death. Progressives call this progress.*

If a woman with a disability gets depressed over her husband leaving her or the agony of psoriasis and says to her doctor that she wants to die, we believe doctors ought to Rx not a dose of death but the same counseling any other depressed patient receives. Meantime, we join the American Medical Association in opposing physician- assisted suicide. And we're wary of doctors who leap in to help folks die.

Sorry, but we gotta bring it up: The Nazi Holocaust's first targets -- in the Aktion T-4 program -- were people with disabilities. Hitler and his doctor buddies declared them "life unworthy of life" and practiced the first gas chambers on people like us. And it's not just Nazis. Ask any social Darwinist: In times of scarcity, we're the first to get sent out into the snowstorm to "disappear."

Ain't life grand?

* P.S. We don't have a particular bone to pick with Progressives. Conservatives are just as wrong on disability issues. We've come to the sad conclusion that we're too special (and too poor) to have friends in politics.

Grigno 27.Jul.2003 15:03


You're not being serious, are you?

Of course I'm being serious - is this funny to you? 27.Jul.2003 16:04


I know it's a hard concept for you to accept that a market-driven medical community and care community would want to save money by ending someone's life, but they exist to make a profit, nothing else. The pharmaceutical and medical industries are just that - businesses. And since you have swallowed the BS that allowed a law to come into existance that makes euthanasia both socially acceptable AND profitable, you are part of the problem. Deal with it. What is so hard to grasp here? Frankly, I am tired of bringing you up to speed, James. I used to also not realize the full implications that such a law would have. But then I did some thinking and some research, and I came to understand things from a different perspective. Sadly, you seem incapable of this. This is funny to you?

Not this, you 27.Jul.2003 17:57


Actually, I think the Death with Dignity Act is quite serious. I've been a proponent of euthanasia for many years, back when I was still in Hawai'i, and much more ignorant of Oregon's law. It's an issue of freedom, nothing else. I don't care whether or not your particular morals guide you a different way. There's no right and wrong answer. It's entirely subjective, and for you to suggest otherwise does nothing but show how closed-minded you are.

The fact that only 58 DWD prescriptions were written in 2002, and 38 actually used means nothing to you. The fact that 86% of DWD patients have attended college similary means nothing to you. The fact that 84% of DWD patients were living dreadful lives with cancer eating away at them means nothing to you. You would prefer that these patients be drugged and dopey in their last days, rather than able to choose the means of their end themselves.

You ignore the fact that 76% of DWD patients cite "losing autonomy" as the main reason for their choice, not pain.

Noone is forcing anyone to die. The entire argument is clearly a strawman.

Unlike the issue itself, however, I do find you to be particularly funny. Your nonsensical and contradictory opinions on everything do strike my funny bone. I'm beginning especially to get quite a kick out of your broken record "do some research" comments. You've become but a parody of yourself, GRINGO, and I'm quite happy to amuse myself reading your wild-eyed postings. Your holier than thou, omniscient attitude is quite annoying at first, but after a while it's good fun.

Keep it up, buddy. We could all use a little humor around here.

another idea or two 27.Jul.2003 18:47


i work on an irregular basis with the dying, although I am sure there are many others with more experieince, I would like to offer some thoughts.
People who decide to die can indeed do the deed without expensive medications and without jumping off buildings either.
A common way is to just stop eating --- it is clearly not so bad for those whose bodies are really wearing out fast and who really have no desire left to live. It is more complicated for people forced onto feeding tubes etc./ in their case the issues become unclear depending on who is in charge of making decisions... I have also seen people who "lose their will to live' and simply shut down... hard to explain unless you've been there.

There are other pressures that can push the poor into making a decision that they might not want to make., for example, a dying woman may not want her children to spend more money that they can really afford to supplement the mother's poor or non existent healthcare, she feels like she is a financial burden... and she wants what is good for her kids...

Every day we make decisions as a society about who will live and who will die. Do you know that many people lost their medical coveage for insulin --- right here in Oregon. Insulin is expensive (and necessary to live for a diabetic) and if the state has to pay for it long term it is really costly... for these people maybe it would be more honest to just say we aren't giving you insulin but we will give you a kill pill.---

Thanks, mom 27.Jul.2003 21:48


I think mom put it pretty succinctly.

James, I guess I am mere entertainment to you. That proves most of my points about you. Glad you could have a giggle on this site. It's meant, mind you, as an alternative news outlet - aimed towards activists.

The "straw man" argument you refer to, that laws sometimes have unforeseen and negative outcomes, is one that I do not consider a straw man at all. The fact is that 70 percent of the DWD "patients" were disabled - they didn't have a terminal illness at all.

But you've already been proven wrong 28.Jul.2003 01:20


Your argument, GRINGO, has long since expired. It was only applicable before the DWD Act went into effect. It was a theory worth consideration, but the practice has proven it wrong, beyond any shadow of a doubt. When will you cease with this tired argument? If twenty years later we've still not seen the "unintended consequences" you predict, will you still be arguing the point? It's been over 5 years. When is the state going to start pushing DWD on the downtrodden?

You keep an eye on it for us, GRINGO, and let us know if you see trouble brewing.


It's the fear of disability that typically motivates assisted suicide 28.Jul.2003 11:04


First, a note about taking statistics from the DWD page: they are not being honest. They say that repeated, witnessed requests for death came from the patients - which is not surprising given the pressure put on them, including subjective, bogus claims of imminent death from the local unquestioned authority (the doctor). This is all as predicted; the doctors claiming no foul with lame statistics. We all know that public healthplans are incomplete coverage, so their claim that 96 percent had public or private healthcare coverage leads to the next question: SO WHAT? Public healthcare skimpily covers only the cheapest of health problems. Their claim that college graduates are 6.5 times more likely to be persuaded to kill themselves is no surprise; college graduates are far more obedient than non-college graduates, given the go-with-the-flow socialisation that happens in college. HOW MANY? would be a good question. 38 percent are college grads while 62 percent were not college grads. As I thought. The main point is that deeming someone as "going to die in 6 months" is not a hard and fast, measurable criteria. The fact is that most of these people had incomplete public healthcare coverage, and were needled steadily to "do the dignified thing" and quit being a financial and emotional burden on their families. Read the page critically, James. And then study the Dutch experience with euthanasia, which bears out many disabled peoples' warnings.

Marilyn Golden of the California Disability Alliance (CDA) says about the proposed California legislation allowing euthanasia:

LOOK DEEPER. Assisted suicide seems, at first blush, like a good thing to have available. But on closer inspection, there are many reasons that legalizing assisted suicide is a terrible idea.

HOW MANY WOULD BE HELPED AND HOW MANY WOULD BE HARMED? While an extremely small number of people may benefit, they will tend to be at the upper end of the income scale, white, and have good health insurance coverage. At the same time, large numbers of people, particularly in less privileged constituencies, would be at significant risk of substantial harm. We must separate our private wishes for what we each may hope to have available for ourselves some day and, rather, focus on the significant dangers of legalizing assisted suicide as public policy in this society as it is today. This law would have many unintended consequences.

MANAGED CARE AND ASSISTED SUICIDE ARE A DEADLY MIX. Perhaps the most significant reason is the deadly mix between this bill and profit-driven managed health care. Health maintenance organizations (HMO's) and managed care bureaucrats are already overruling doctors' treatment decisions, sometimes hastening patients' deaths. The cost of the lethal medication under AB 1592 is about $35 to $50; far cheaper than the cost of treatment for most long-term medical conditions. The incentive to save money by denying treatment is already a significant danger; it would be far greater if this bill were passed. It's not coincidental that the author of Oregon's assisted suicide law, Barbara Coombs Lee, was an HMO executive when she drafted it. This bill would accelerate the decline in quality of California's health care system.

A 1998 study from Georgetown University's Center for Clinical Bioethics underscored the link between profit-driven managed health care and assisted suicide. The research found a strong link between cost-cutting pressure on doctors and their willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients, were it legal to do so. The study warns there must be "a sobering degree of caution in legalizing [physician-assisted suicide] in a medical care environment that is characterized by increasing pressure on physicians to control the cost of care."

The deadly impact would come down far harder on socially and economically disadvantaged groups who have less access to medical resources and who already find themselves discriminated against by the health care system: poor people, people of color, elderly people, people with chronic or progressive conditions or disabilities, and anyone who is, in fact, terminally ill will be put at serious risk.

Dr. Rex Greene, a cancer specialist in Los Angeles for 23 years and a leader in his field, underscored the heightened danger to the poor. He said, "The most powerful predictor of ill health is [people's] income. [This legislation] plays right into the hands of managed care."

Supporters of AB 1592 frequently say that HMO's will not use this bill as a way to deal with costly patients. They cite a 1998 study in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that the savings of allowing people to die before their last month of life would be $627 million, which is only .07% of the nation's total health care costs per year. But this study has several significant problems which make it an unsuitable basis for claims about AB 1592. The researchers, assisted suicide opponent Ezekiel Emmanual and proponent Margaret Battin, based their findings on the average cost to Medicare of patients with only four weeks or less to live. But AB 1592 defines terminal illness as having six months to live. The researchers also assumed that about 2.7% of the total number of people who die in the U.S. would opt for physician assisted suicide, based on reported physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands. But Dutch doctors are not required to report such deaths, which casts considerable doubt on this figure. And how can you compare the U.S. to a country that has universal health care? All these considerations would skew the costs much higher.

FEAR, BIAS, AND PREJUDICE AGAINST DISABILITY. Another major problem with AB 1592 has to do with who ends up using assisted suicide, both in Oregon and in the only other place on earth where it's legally tolerated, the Netherlands. Oregon's law and the California bill are written as if the point of assisted suicide is to relieve untreatable pain at the end of life. However, all but one of the people in Oregon who were reported to have used that state's assisted suicide law during its first year wanted suicide not because of pain, but for fear of losing functional ability, autonomy, or control of bodily functions.[1] Similarly, in the Netherlands, according to reports, more than half the doctors surveyed say the main reason given by patients for seeking death is "loss of dignity."

It's this fear of disability that typically underlies assisted suicide. Said one assisted suicide advocate, "Pain is not the main reason we want to die. It's the indignity. It's the inability to get out of bed or get onto the toilet...[People]...say, 'I can't stand my mother - my husband - wiping my behind.' It's about dignity." But needing help is not undignified, and death is not better than dependency. Has California gotten to the point that we will abet suicides because people need help using the toilet?

SUPPOSED SAFEGUARDS. The bill is based on the faulty assumption that you can make a clear distinction between who is terminally ill with 6 months to live, and everyone else. Everyone else is supposedly protected and not eligible for assisted suicide. But it is extremely common for medical predictions of a short life expectancy to be wrong. Studies show that only cancer patients show a predictable decline, and even then, it's only in the last few weeks of life. And with every disease other than cancer, there is no predictability.[2] Prognoses are based on statistical averages, which are nearly useless in predicting what will happen to an individual patient. Moreover, doctors and the courts frequently classify people with long-term disabilities as "terminally ill." Thus, the potential effect of this bill is radically expanded beyond the supposedly narrow group the bill's proponents claim.

This poses considerable danger to people with new or increasing disabilities or diseases. Research overwhelmingly shows that people with new disabilities frequently go through initial despondency and suicidal feelings, but later adapt well and find great satisfaction in their lives. [3] But the adaptation usually takes considerably longer than the mere two week waiting period required by the bill. People with new diagnoses of terminal illness appear to go through similar stages.[4] In that early period before one learns the truth about how good one's quality of life can be, it would be all too easy to make the final choice one that is irrevocable, if assisted suicide was legal.

OTHER SUPPOSED SAFEGUARDS. In Oregon's law and this bill, doctors are not supposed to write a lethal prescription under inappropriate conditions which are defined in the law. This is seen as a supposed safeguard. But what's happened in several cases in Oregon is "doctor shopping" - if one physician refuses assisted suicide because the patient doesn't meet the conditions in the law, another physician is sought who will approve it, often one who's an assisted suicide advocate. Such was the case of Kate Cheney, age 85, whose case was described in The Oregonian in October 1999. Her doctor refused to prescribe the lethal medication, because he thought the request was actually the result of pressure by an assertive daughter who was stuck with caregiving, rather than the free choice of the mother. So the family found another doctor, and Ms. Cheney is now dead.

There is one safeguard in this bill - for HMO's and doctors: the "good faith" standard. This "safeguard" provides that no person will be subject to any form of legal liability if they claim that they acted in "good faith." A claimed "good faith" belief that the requirements of the law are satisfied is virtually impossible to disprove, rendering all other proposed "safeguards" effectively unenforceable.

THIS SO-CALLED NARROW PROPOSAL WILL INEVITABLY EXPAND. As the New York State Task Force on Life and the Law wrote, "Once society authorizes assisted suicide for...terminally ill patients experiencing unrelievable suffering, it will be difficult if not impossible to contain the option to such a limited group. Individuals who are not (able to make the choice for themselves), who are not terminally ill, or who cannot self-administer lethal drugs will also seek the option of assisted suicide, and no principled basis will exist to deny (it)."[5]

The longest experience we have with assisted suicide is in the Netherlands, where not only assisted suicide but also active euthanasia is practiced. The Netherlands is a very frightening laboratory experiment where, because of assisted suicide and euthanasia, "Pressure for improved palliative care appears to have evaporated."[6] Assisted suicide and euthanasia have become, not just the exception, but the rule for people with terminal illness.

"Over the past two decades, the Netherlands has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia for the terminally ill to euthanasia for the chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for psychological distress and from voluntary euthanasia to nonvoluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Once the Dutch accepted assisted suicide it was not possible legally or morally to deny more active medical (assistance to die), i.e. euthanasia, to those who could not effect their own deaths. Nor could they deny assisted suicide or euthanasia to the chronically ill who have longer to suffer than the terminally ill or to those who have psychological pain not associated with physical disease. To do so would be a form of discrimination. Involuntary euthanasia has been justified as necessitated by the need to make decisions for patients not competent to choose for themselves."[7] In other words, for a substantial number of people in the Netherlands, doctors have decided patients should die without consultation with the patients.

Furthermore, assisted suicide proponents and medical personnel alike have documented how taking lethal drugs by mouth is often ineffective in fulfilling its intended purpose. The body expels the drugs through vomiting, or the person falls into a lengthy state of unconsciousness rather than dying promptly, as so-called "death with dignity" advocates wish. Such ineffective suicide attempts can happen in a substantial percentage of cases -- estimates range from 15% to 25%. The way to prevent these "problems," in the view of euthanasia advocates, is by legalizing lethal injections by doctors, which is active euthanasia. This is an inevitable next step if society first accepts assisted suicide as a legitimate legal option.

We are told by AB 1592's proponents that these things will not happen in California. But why not? How can they, or anyone, stop it? The courts have already completely blurred these categories. If the next step is wrong, then taking this step is tantamount to taking the next step.

NOT TRULY FREE CHOICE. AB 1592 purports to be about free choice. But there are significant dangers that many people would take this "out" due to pressure, such as elderly individuals who don't want to be a financial or caretaking burden on their families. There's significant documented elder abuse in this country, and it's usually by family members. Also, leaders and researchers in the black and Latino communities have stated their fears that pressures to choose death would be applied disproportionately to their communities. [8] Other people would undergo assisted suicide because they lack good health care, or in-home support, and are terrified about going to a nursing home. AB 1592 would actually result in deaths due to a lack of choices for many people. Given the absence of any real choice, death by assisted suicide becomes not an act of personal autonomy, but an act of desperation. It is fictional freedom; it is phony autonomy.


[1]Report from the Oregon Health Division, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, February 18, 1999, Vol. 340, Issue 7, "Legalized Physician Assisted Suicide in Oregon: The First Year's Experience"

[2] Lamont, EB, et al. Oncology (Huntington) 1999 Aug; 13 (8):1165-70
Maltoni, M, et al. Eur Joul of Cancer. 1994; 30A (6):764-6
Christakis and Iwashyna. Arch of Int Med 1998 Nov 23;158(21):2389-95
Lynn, J, et al. New Horiz 1997 Feb;5(1):56-61

[3] Louis Harris & Associates, The ICD Survey of Disabled Americans: Bringing Disabled Americans into the Mainstream 55 (1986)
KA Gerhart et al., Annals of Emergency Medicine, 1994, vol. 23, 807-812
P Cameron et al., Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1973, vol. 41, 207-214
C Ray & J West, Paraplegia, 1984, vol. 22, 75-86
R Stensman, Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1985, vol. 17, 87-99
JR Bach & MC Tilton, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1994, vol. 75, 626-632
GG Whiteneck et al., Rocky Mountain Spinal Cord Injury System Report to the National Institute of Handicapped Research, 1985, 29-33
MG Eisenberg & CC Saltz, Paraplegia, 1991, vol. 29

[4] New York State Task Force on Life and the Law (1994): "When Death is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context," p. xiv

[5] New York State Task Force on Life and the Law, "When Death is Sought," 1997 supplement

[6] Herbert Hendin, M.D., "Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Lessons From the Dutch Experience," U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Oversight Hearing, April 29, 1996.

[7] Herbert Hendin, M.D., "Suicide, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia: Lessons From the Dutch Experience," U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Oversight Hearing, April 29, 1996.

[8] Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1999
Penny Montemayor, Coalition of Concerned Medical Professionals, as quoted in "The Death Debate: Making Sense of California's Proposed Death with Dignity Bill," San Francisco Bay Guardian, July 14, 1999
"Blacks Wary of Right-to-Die," Ann Arbor News, February 26, 1997
"Blacks Fearful of White Doctors Pulling the Plug," Detroit Free Press, February 26, 1997

I don't know what else you hear, but it's not me weeping 28.Jul.2003 12:29


I have about zero interest in a parochial state bureaucracy telling me -- or anyone else -- when it's okay to end my life. When I'm just a weensy bit depressed, or my quality of life is not yet bad enough to warrant suicide. It's a personal decision all my own. (Or if I had dependents, between myself and my dependents). I don't believe I should be forced to jump from a building to end my life because the drug control officer thinks I might just be a bit unhappy.

Nor do I believe we should limit access to assisted-suicide to the terminally ill. The state has absolutely no business involving itself in such decisions. (Except where the patient is not actually administering the lethal dose themselves).

The argument is so ridiculous. It's the exact same argument which is used to justify the criminalization of drug use. Some people aren't capable of making these decisions, so the government has to protect us. (And "the children" in the case of drugs).

Your slippery slope fallacy is just that. It's not been borne out in Oregon. Indeed, your story about Kate Cheney is in all likelihood deliberately misstated.

LEE HOCHBERG: Hamilton says there's another problem: people receiving aid in dying who shouldn't be. He says one woman was clinically depressed and might have reconsidered with proper therapy. He cites this tape recording the elderly woman left behind that was aired on local television.

ELDERLY WOMAN: I am looking forward to it because being I was always active. I will be relieved of all the stress I have.

DR. GREG HAMILTON: That woman was diagnosed as having depression, and yet, within three weeks, she was given a lethal overdose, instead of being given hope and treatment like anybody else.

DR. PETER GOODWIN: That is totally absolutely a fabrication.

LEE HOCHBERG: But right-to-die supporters and the patient's family say opponents have mis-told the story to ignite political opposition to assisted suicide.

DR. PETER GOODWIN: It's a total mis-statement of what really happened with this lady.

LEE HOCHBERG: Goodwin says the patient contacted him early this year, distraught that her physician had diagnosed her as depressed and had refused her request for aid in dying. Oregon law says if two doctors find a patient rational, she can receive such aid. Goodwin found five physicians, including a psychiatrist, who said she was of sound mind.

DR. PETER GOODWIN: There are six physicians who interacted with that patient. Five believed that the patient was acting totally rationally. Enemies of the law, I believe that they are using this case totally unjustly.

Like I said though, you keep an eye on things, and if you catch a whiff of society actually sliding down the slippery slope you speak of, or abuses actually happening, let me know.

The slope has already slipped 28.Jul.2003 13:28


James, first of all, I agree with your statement that no one can tell you when to kill yourself. I don't agree with suicide being illegal.

Agreed. Any law dealing with personal decisions is stupid. Now that we, two able-bodied white men, agree on that, can we continue?

When someone wants to kill themself, THEY WILL. Their own future doesn't matter, so why should the letter of the law? Suicide attempts are just that - attempts - but not at killing yourself - usually it is a serious cry for help. But suicide itself is a popular way to die. "Everyone is doing it."

Is anyone incapable of killing themself? No. ANYONE can kill themself. Mom, a caregiver, agrees. It is not hard to die - even when disabled or immobile.

So does anyone need "assisted suicide" (read: "consensual" murder)? No. No assistance is required. Even immobile people can kill themselves.

So what is the problem? Why do we need "assisted" suicide? The medical/insurance industries need it. They don't like "wasting" time, effort and money helping someone when they can possibly convince a patient that life isn't worth it after all. Given the social attitudes towards disabled people, people will gladly die instead of learn to live with themselves. Oops - problem: doctors are sworn to make people better NO MATTER WHAT.

This is not a moral question. This is a question of doctors turning away from the Hippocratic Oath en masse. Their job is to help people, not pretend to care while convincing someone to just end it all. Which is easy to do if being crippled (for example) is new to the patient and the care is expensive and relatives are also suffering by seeing the patient's condition. Isn't it the job of physicians to make sick people well, and to help those who can't help themselves get better?

Traditional chinese healthcare has an interesting pay scheme; the physicians are only paid when the patient is well, and when the patient is sick the physician is not paid anything. This creates an incentive for preventative medicine, and to keep the patient healthy. The opposite is true of doctors today; the sicker the person, and the longer the illness/condition, the more the physician is paid. There is an incentive for having sick patients, not well ones.

There are many problems with the healthcare industry, and the symptoms of capitalism cause many of them.

The people who kill themselves "with dignity" are disabled, not in pain. The slope has slipped already - in the first year of Oregon's kill-the-disabled-poor law, as a matter of fact.

Like in the thread where Gerard Holmgren takes you to task for your propagandic use of language concerning 9-11, you are again declaring the discussion over without a full discussion and dismissing me simply because I disagree with you, hence my thought processes must be inherently flawed. (You should work for Bill O'Reilly, write his sneering, dismissive monologues).

The fact remains that Dr. Kevorkian is a believer in eugenics and wants to aid natural selection. He has openly stated this. Your hero is no different that Hitler, who killed the monsters, freaks, cripples and invalids to no protest whatsoever from the obedient Good Germans of his era. This set the stage for later genocide - that was no slippery slope - it was the logical progression of your anti-Hippocrates, must-be-productive, capitalist mindframe.

The concerns of the disabled community are valid. They are being killed off. They are not in pain; they are merely disabled, and most of them are cool with themselves and the way they are. They fucking HATE Christopher Reeve's self-loathing desperation for quacky cures. They know they are disabled and they won't get any better. They have been forced to come to terms with this, but others can't accept the way they are and are terrified that one day they will also become seen as disabled freaks.


By his bedside kneeleth a maid, and she weepeth both night and day 28.Jul.2003 16:27


Is anyone incapable of living without antidepressants? No. Anyone can live without antidepressants. But some people like them. (For whatever reasons). Okay, it's kind of a shitty analogy. But I'm sure you get the drift.

"So does anyone need "assisted suicide" (read: "consensual" murder)? No. No assistance is required. Even immobile people can kill themselves."

We may have a problem with terminology there. I consider assisted suicide the procurement of drugs and the dispensing of information related to those drugs. The patient should -- in most all cases -- administer the dose themselves. If a person is completely immobile and they want to end their life, with assistance, with drugs, doctors should be allowed to administer the drugs, having obtained videotaped authorization, some waiting period having been observed, and whatever other safeguards.

Doctors should never suggest assisted suicide to a patient. It should be an actionable offense, at the very least guaranteed loss of license. But if asked, doctors should be allowed to give information, advice, and the necessary drugs to the patient.

"So what is the problem? Why do we need "assisted" suicide? The medical/insurance industries need it."

That's not true. 38 people in Oregon wanted it last year. And a majority of the population can envision a scenario wherein they too would want the option. It's not the medical/insurance industry which approved the law. It was the People of the State of Oregon. There's no way a health insurance company would push DWD on a patient. It would spell the end of the company, for sure. I know you like to discount the prohibiting effects of massive lawsuits against industry, but experience has shown it works. (Usually). Do you really think there wouldn't be a whistle-blower at a health insurance company pushing DWD on chronic patients?

"This is not a moral question. This is a question of doctors turning away from the Hippocratic Oath en masse."

In other words, "This is not a moral question. This is a question of doctors re-evaluating their historical morals."

"Their job is to help people, not pretend to care while convincing someone to just end it all."

Quite right. If there's an example of a doctor pushing DWD on a patient in Oregon (which isn't a distortion of truth), I'd like to hear about it, and it may just change my opinion. But it seems to me the doctors have been helping people -- not healing, but helping, in the way they asked to be helped.

"There is an incentive for having sick patients, not well ones."

If that were true, I'd expect the life expectancy in China to be higher than the United States or Japan. Well, maybe not, it's still largely rural. I'm somewhat skeptical of the entire statement. I've not heard of that before, and to the best of my knowledge China has a fairly substantial socialized healthcare system. It sounds like a pretty darn good idea though.

"The people who kill themselves "with dignity" are disabled, not in pain."

Right. Precisely. You've hit the nail on the head. If it were just pain, it would be wrong-headed. But it's not. It's loss of autonomy, losing the will to live, not being able to do the things which make life enjoyable, loss of control of bodily functions -- and yes, guilt for the burden placed on loved ones. The latter point is depressing and sad. But the former points are very valid. Just because the majority of disabled persons don't want to end their lives doesn't mean we should deny the others. Just because it impugns their sense of acceptance? I'm sorry, that's not a good enough reason.

"Like in the thread where Gerard Holmgren takes you to task for your propagandic use of language concerning 9-11, you are again declaring the discussion over without a full discussion and dismissing me simply because I disagree with you"

Gerard's tisk-tissing was well put-together, I'll give you that. But I'll admit to giggling under my breath, while trying to contain my laughter so as not to wake the others, as I read that last night. (Or was it the night before last?) I truly could not believe it had come to that point.

I hear Christoper Reeves can wiggle his toesies now. No need to kick the man once again. If he wants to spend hours in physical treatment everyday, attempting to get his freedom of mobility back, or just to feel the prick of a pin as it pinches his skin -- who are you or any disabled persons to fault him? Live and let live.

I could hardly care less for Dr. Kevorkian. I find his zeal for euthanasia and urges to show the private procedures on 60 Minutes somewhat frightening. I'm not sure why he's quite so enthusiastic about the procedure, but I have no delusions of it being healthy. I don't think he deserves prison, but if he decided to make the statement himself, and administer a lethal dose, I'd not lose much sleep over it.

"Your hero is no different that Hitler, who killed the monsters, freaks, cripples and invalids to no protest whatsoever from the obedient Good Germans of his era."

Yes. Physican assisted suicide is the logical first step towards death camps, wherein we will dispose of all the less-desirables. Could we please have just one discussion without the extremists bringing the Nazis into the fray? Just one?

"They are not in pain; they are merely disabled, and most of them are cool with themselves and the way they are."

But some are not, and that's the point. Actually, I think we're pretty much in agreement, despite the discussion. I'm more than willing to concede the actual physician administered argument. It's not nearly as important to me as patients have access to the drugs and information to do the deed themselves, if they so choose. (Though I still think it's a matter of freedom, we do live in a world with some uncaring characters and a state and the institutions to back them up, so you may have some point in that instance.)

Dr. Kevorkian's real goal - which is still being pursued by others 28.Jul.2003 19:30


excerpted from an article:

Isn't Jack Kevorkian only trying to end suffering?

No. In fact, Kevorkian himself has made it very clear that that's not what his activities are all about:
He has specifically stated that alleviation of agonizing pain and torment is only a "minor benefit" in his overall scheme of things. (27)

His "ultimate aim," as he described it, is "not simply to help suffering or doomed persons kill themselves." That activity, he said,"is merely the first step, an early distasteful professional obligation" which will lead to his goal. (28)

What is Jack Kevorkian's goal?

The establishment of deadly human experimentation as a medical specialty is Kevorkian's goal.
"What I find most satisfying," he has said, "is the prospect of making possible the performance of invaluable experiments" and other undefined "medical acts." (29)

He has described a process by which "subjects," including infants, children, even the mentally incompetent, would be used for experiments " of any kind or complexity." (30) Then, if the subject's body is alive after experimentation, "death may be induced" by such means as "removal of organs for transplantation" or "a lethal dose of a new or untested drug to be administered by an official executioner."(31)

Infants, children and others incapable of giving direct or informed consent are among the "potential candidates for the humane killing known as euthanasia." He calls this "suicide by proxy." (32)

He has expressed his desire to assist in the deaths of 20 or 30 year-olds who are not ill, but who "just don't want to live anymore."(33)

He has said he wants to establish death houses run by "untouchables" where even an 18 year-old could go. (34) Under his supervision, he claims, the "untouchables" would be "incorruptible." (35)

He has even drawn up plans for these death centers. Using Michigan as a model for the nation, he has divided the state into eleven killing zones.(36)

All killing...which would be considered a medical specialty called "obitiatry" (from the word "obituary")...would be controlled through "zone headquarters."(37)

The "practitioner" of medical killing would be called an "obitiatrist"...literally "doctor of death." (38)

He has proposed a "auction market for available organs" (39) taken from "subjects" who are "hopelessly crippled by arthritis or malformations." (40) Part of the money from the dead disabled person's auctioned organs could go to relatives whose financial burdens would be eased and "their standard of living enhanced."(41)

Doesn't Jack Kevorkian limit his services to the terminally ill who are not depressed?

Definitely not."Terminally ill," as defined in most proposals to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, means a life expectancy of six months or less. (54) Yet the majority of Jack Kevorkian's "patients" did not fall within the meaning of "terminally ill." (Kevorkian has defined terminal illness as "any disease that curtails life even for a day." (55) His attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, has written, "Any disease that curtails life-span is terminal."(56)
He has testified that, if a person is depressed over illness or disability, "the depression becomes irrelevant. "(57)

He has written that the deaths of sick or disabled people would benefit society:
"[T]he voluntary self-elimination of individual and mortally diseased or crippled lives taken collectively can only enhance the preservation of public health and welfare." (58)

When questioned by Time magazine, Kevorkian said that doctors will decide who dies:

Q. How do you decide whom to help? Does the patient have to suffer from a life-threatening illness?
A. No, of course not. And it doesn't have to be painful, as with quadriplegia. But your life quality has to be nil.
Q. And who decides that?
A. That's up to physicians, and nobody can gainsay what doctors say. It all boils down to the integrity of the doctors....
Q. What about people who suffer emotionally and want to die?
A. ...Once this gets going as a practice for physically debilitated people, the psychiatrists are going to have a whopping job because it is going to be up to them to decide how this fits into their field. (59)

Aren't other euthanasia leaders less radical than Kevorkian?

No, In fact, many have expressed support for him and approval of his goals.

* John Pridonoff, former executive director of the Hemlock Society U.S.A., was on hand to publicly pledge support for Kevorkian's efforts to launch a campaign in Michigan to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide for those who are "incapacitated." (80)Pridonoff wrote, "Since October of 1992 The Hemlock Society U.S.A. and I have indicated support for the goals and objectives of Kevorkian." (81)

* Sidney Rosoff, president of the Hemlock Society U.S.A. and former board chairman of the Society for the Right to Die, said, "Dr. Kevorkian really deserves a great deal of credit for doing what other physicians are not doing or at least are not doing openly." (82)In a letter to the New York Times, Rosoff wrote, "Dr. Kevorkian acted in the tradition of a caring and courageous physician."

* The National Hemlock Society (now called the Hemlock Society U.S.A.), in a press release, said, "Hemlock would prefer that actions like those of Dr. Kevorkian were clearly made legal and not subject to ambiguity."(84)In another press release, Hemlock declared, "Dr. Kevorkian's motive was purely humanitarian."(85)

* Derek Humphry, co-founder of the Hemlock Society and author of the suicide manual, Final Exit, said, "One could quibble about things with Dr. Kevorkian, but basically he's along the same lines as me...He ought to be able to do these things in hospitals and not in the back of a van."(86)Humphry is also quoted as saying that Kevorkian is "a very brave pioneer who is trying to shock the medical profession into accepting voluntary euthanasia..."(87) On another occasion, Humphry commented, "It's a pincer movement. He's (Kevorkian) coming at it through the courts and we in the right-to-die movement are coming through the legislatures."(88)

* Pit Bakker, chairwoman of the Dutch Voluntary Society, called Kevorkian's death machine, "a technical innovation which brings no new ethical elements" to euthanasia debate.

* Janet Good, president of Hemlock of Michigan, praised Kevorkian: "He's compassionate, he's courageous; thank God we have a doctor like him."(90)

Is Opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia just an attempt by religious fanatics to impose their beliefs on others?

Not by a long shot. Jack Kevorkian and his attorneys seize every opportunity to label opponents as "religious nuts"(91) and "Nazis."(92) They've carried their name calling to outlandish extremes, including even columnist Ellen Goodman in the "religious nut" category.(93) They've claimed that the Michigan legislature is controlled by "a right-wing fanatic religious minority," (94) and that the Medical Board of California is "a religious cult."(95) They've maintained that a vote of the people would show that the public wants assisted suicide and euthanasia.(96)Yet, since Kevorkian began sending people to the grave, voters in Washington and California have defeated ballot initiatives that would have legalized Kevorkian-type practices. (97) Neither state is known as a bastion of religious activism.During the California campaign, major newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle opposed the measure. (98) So did organizations like the California State Hospice Association and California Commission on Aging.(99) These could scarcely be described as religious publications or groups.Journalists and ethicists have also expressed strong opposition to the Kevorkian solution:
Steven Miles, a Minneapolis physician who has analyzed judicial opinions for the American Society of Law and Medicine, has explained that Kevorkian acts "as a mirror for the hatred of disability--the idea that our bodies must be perfect."(100)

USA Today's Diane Culbertson has predicted that if Kevorkian's "type of killer medicine becomes accepted, what horrors the future could hold. The progression is obvious; from assisted death to suggesting death to insisting on death."

Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle has observed that "the death doc's forthright embrace of body-parts harvesting and auctions show the euthanasia movement for what it very easily could turn into--a cold-blooded death machine that finds expanding reasons and social benefits in suicide."(102)

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has written, "Ours is a society with 31,000 suicides a year, a rate 30 percent higher that the murder rate about which people are in such a panic today. Our problem is not the difficulty of committing suicide, but the ease."(103)

Are individuals who point out the dangers of euthanasia and assisted suicide seeking to impose suffering on others?

On the contrary. Those who do the most to alleviate suffering--the man who brings meals to patients, the woman who cares for a frail parent, the hospice nurse whose patients are lovingly comforted, the oncologist who takes the time to kill pain, not patients--are the most vocal in their opposition to the practices that Kevorkian considers ethical.But people with disabilities are the most eloquent in pointing out that what is really at issue in much of the promotion of assisted suicide is a deeply rooted prejudice in our society against those who are severely disabled--a prejudice characterized by bigots who begrudge access to independent living or jobs, but rush to provide access to the grave. Disability rights leaders make their concern very clear:
"Kevorkian is sending out a message that, if you have a physical disease, it is not OK to go on living," according to Patricia McDonald of the Michigan Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. (104)

Ronald Seigel, chief of the Michigan Democrat's Handicapper Caucus has said that if Kevorkian were to prevail it would be "open season on the handicapped."(105)

"Choice is becoming a code word for the powerful eliminating the powerless," wrote Bill Bolte, president of Barrier Busters Inc. Warning that Kevorkian's plans pose a deadly threat to all severely disabled people, Bolte said, "We may find personally that our own lives are needlessly shortened as the death industry begins drawing off funds from aid to the living."(106)


Why I bring up Hitler 29.Jul.2003 02:03


Because Hitler and the Nazis were fans of eugenics (which started in the USA) and big fans of euthanasia. They wanted a pure master race, after all, not unlike Kevorkian (see above comment). Studying tyrants is a helpful thing to do because the pieces of the puzzle start to fall together. History will judge the US especially harshly with the BushCo regime, because BushCo has so many startling similarities with pre-dictatorship Hitler/Nazi party, which points to an imminent dictatorship here in the US, and the Patriot Act 2 bears this out. There are no slippery slopes here, only historically proven (time and time again) patterns of power consolidation.

James, your statistics about the Oregon "assisted" suicides ("assisted" should be changed to "suggested" at this point) should be taken with a grain of salt. Check out this comprehensive survey of Oregon's suggested suicide program. It includes many excellent articles on the so-called right to die, as well as many collections of statistics:


Concerning the statistics which James provided earlier:

Statistics may not be accurate: Those responsible for issuing official annual reports have acknowledged, from the very beginning of Oregon's assisted suicide law, that the reports may not be accurate or complete. According to the Oregon Health Division, "The entire account [given by a doctor] may be a cock and bull story. We assume, however that physicians were their usual careful and accurate selves."

Source: CD Summary, Oregon Health Division, section titled "Study Limitations."

Finally, the 2,500-year-old ban against doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia doesn't stem from religions' forcing their morality on anybody. The Hippocratic Oath, scholars Leon Kass and Nelson Lund remind us, is the product of Greek antiquity: "The Oath is fundamentally pagan and medical, and it has no connection with biblical religion or the Judeo-Christian doctrines of the sanctity of life... " they write, "The Oath's survival... is attributable to the wisdom of its contents, repeatedly recognized and reaffirmed by physicians down to the present."

Yup 29.Jul.2003 04:17


Twue, twue. But still, it'd be nice to have one discussion without the Nazi comparisons. Gowin's Law and all. Most forms of government can be compared to Nazism, in design and in practice. So it's not really useful. In our future discussions, can I just stipulate to the Nazi comparisons and be spared the usual parables?

Morals need no religious grounding, nor did I claim any connection between religion and the Hippocratic Oath.

If the statistics are indeed inaccurate, which I find somewhat unlikely, what are we to do? Without an accusation of wrongdoing from a family member, of which there are none I am aware, how do we determine if the law is being abused? Possible distortion of facts, in my view, is not reason enough to limit freedom.

What we can do - AVOID LOOPHOLE LAWS 29.Jul.2003 10:03


So, by the admission of the statistic gatherers themselves, the statistics you cited are unreliable. We have no way of accurately measuring what is happening. Can you imagine the political fallout of euthanising minorities or particularly poor people? Damn right they didn't report those.

The stupid law we have in Oregon is a loophole law - one that allows vast wiggling room for doctors to abuse the power to euthanise. THAT is why it should never have been passed. There is no way to safeguard how the law is to be followed at all. That is my argument, along with the fact that people, even immobile people, are capable of killing themselves already, making this law a gateway to murder, nothing more or less than that.

Sorry James, but Nazis existed, whether you wanted them to or not, and they were obedient statists, they were fiercely pro-government. By far, more crimes against humanity have been committed in the name of obedience than disobedience. The Nazis are merely the most widely known examples of state-supported thugs, and the US will be considered the same once the US is no longer the main producer of histories. History and politics is not here for your entertainment, so your "boredom" about hearing of them is perfectly irrelevant. Nazis were enthusiastic euthanisers. When no one speaks up for the disabled freaks and monsters when they are put to death, it establishes a precedent for conditional respect for life which leads to eradication of all things which do not benefit the state. Nazis also performed cruel experiments on living people, Jews mostly, experiments which were confiscated and which helped the US space program a great deal. Keep in mind that experiments on living people is the aim of Kevorkian and the Hemlock society, etc - just like the Nazis.

Oh sorry James, was that not entertaining enough?

I do get your point, though.

Nazis being so widely known, people see them as an isolated instance of abuse of power, when actually they are quite typical. Gun control fanatics like Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot always end up slaughtering their unarmed civilians by the millions since the popoulace has no way of defending themselves. But there are many Jewish people who are creative and respected entertainers, historians, newspeople and publishers - and they have seen to a spectacular villification of Germans and Arabs in general (how many Germans and Arabs have played villains in Hollywood movies - how many have played the heroes?) I see the problem as obedience and government, rather than some innate national urge to kick puppies and torture people and kill millions. After all, Americans do that too.

It makes me see what I want to see 29.Jul.2003 11:10


If you're only proposing additional safeguards, please ennumerate them, and you'll most likely have my vote.

"Oh sorry James, was that not entertaining enough?"

It was entertaining enough the first few times, but the show has moved to syndication and the resulting re-runs may just bore me to death. (No need for euthanasia).

"I do get your point, though."

And me your's.

wait until it happens to you James 15.Oct.2004 23:11

I've been there

You poke fun at the legitimate concern of people. You think that you are imune. Well I've got news for you. Sooner or later everyone gets sick or old. Being old, sick or poor does not make a person inhuman tho the group of people I suspect you have much in common with would agrue the point. Do you think fish or dogs or rats are more human than some people?

I saw the man I love killed by doctors who judged his quality of life not worth living. It didn't matter that he wanted to live, that he thought his quality of life was better than it ever had been. They chose to kill him in a state that does not allow assisted suicide. Why because they put themselves on equal terms with God.

Maybe someday you will need care and someone will decide that your life is not worth saving. When that time comes you had better hope that there are not too many like you making the decisions.