Oregon Hospices Not Participating in Assisted Suicide

by The Center for Bioethics and Culture on September 15, 2010

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.

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