By Wesley J. Smith, J.D., Special Consultant to the CBC
We hear often from assisted suicide advocates that most who die by doctor prescribed death in Oregon were in hospice — as if that makes it okay. I have indicated here and elsewhere, that this merely means assisted suicide facilitators have interfered with proper medical treatment for these patients: One essential service provided by hospice is suicide prevention. Bragging that a patient who committed assisted suicide without providing prevention is like denying the patient pain control and then patting yourself on the back when they ask to die.
Now, a study shows that my analysis is right on the money: Most hospices do not participate actively in Oregon assisted suicide. From a Hastings Center Report study:
During 2009, in order to assess the extent to which Oregon hospice programs participate in physician-assisted death, we requested policy statements, program guidelines, and staff education materials that had been developed by sixty-four hospice programs affiliated with the Oregon Hospice Association to address patient inquiries about the Death with Dignity Act. We received forty documents representing fifty-six programs. Our examination of these documents suggests that individual hospice programs generally assume a minor role in the decision-making process of patients who exercise their rights to physician-assisted death—a role largely confined to providing information about the law in a “neutral” manner. Moreover, hospices claim they will not assist with providing the medications necessary to hasten a patient’s death. This limited role indicates that questions of legal compliance and moral complicity inhibit hospice collaboration with patients seeking physician-assisted death.
This is important. Hospice philosophy is completely at odds with doctor prescribed suicide philosophy. They cannot occupy the same space. I am very pleased that Oregon hospices are generally keeping assisted suicide there at arm’s length. It has no place in proper end of life care.