With assisted suicide legalised in Victoria and advocates still pushing for its legalisation in other states, you may be wondering what problems lie ahead for Australia when it comes to assisted suicide. Take a look at six problems that the state of Oregon has experienced since assisted suicide became legal 20 years ago:
- Unmanageable pain/terminal illness is not a requirement. In Oregon in 2016, almost half of the individuals who committed assisted suicide did so because they believed they were a burden on their family, friends, or caregivers, rather than because of their own suffering.
- There is not a system of accountability in place for medical professionals involved in assisted suicide. Any licensed doctor, regardless of experience and specialty, can write a lethal prescription. It does not have to be the individual’s primary care physician, or any of their treating physicians.
- The same documentation and oversight requirements as other medical procedures do not exist. It is not required that anyone even be in attendance when the lethal dose is administered, meaning that there is no oversight at the moment of death, nor any recourse in place if there are complications or if there is coercion involved.
- The cause of death is fabricated. States that have legalised assisted suicide require that the cause of death be listed as something other than assisted suicide. Not only does this make it difficult to track the number of deaths by assisted suicide, it also can also skew other state and national mortality rates.
- Assisted suicide laws prevent suicidal people from getting the help they need. Individuals requesting assisted suicide are not required to have a mental health evaluation. In 2016, only 3.8% of those who committed assisted suicide had a psychiatric evaluation.
- Suicide can have a contagious effect. When it comes to both suicide committed independently, and physician-assisted suicide, on person choosing to die can have a triggering effect on those around them. Contrary to claims that legalised assisted suicide will see a reduction in people taking their own lives, suicide rates increase. Oregon’s suicide rate, for example, is more than 40% higher than the national average.
Time will only tell how assisted suicide will affect Victorians, and if other states will follow suit. Meanwhile, we must do our best to ensure that vulnerable Aussies are protected.