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side view of empty hospital bed in clinic chamber
side view of empty hospital bed in clinic chamber
Humanize From Discovery Institute's Center on Human Exceptionalism
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Suicide Tourism Comes to Oregon

Originally published at National Review

Assisted-suicide activists always promise that strict guidelines will protect against abuse. It’s a big con. The guidelines are not really strict. They rely primarily on self-reporting. And they are meant to be temporary: As soon as political conditions permit, the access to doctor-prescribed death expands.

Witness Oregon. When Measure 16 passed, assisted suicide was limited to state residents. That requirement was recently deemed inoperative by the state’s ever-flaccid suicide regulators after a lawsuit was settled and is expected to soon be repealed.

That threatens to open a floodgate and transform Oregon into the U.S. equivalent of Switzerland, where suicide clinics flourish. Already, people from out of state who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness — something very loosely defined — are traveling to Oregon to find a death doctor willing to help make themselves dead in just over two weeks. From the Daily Mail story:

Oregon has become America’s first ‘death tourism’ destination, where terminally ill people from Texas and other states that have outlawed assisted suicide have started travelling to get their hands on a deadly cocktail of drugs to end their lives, DailyMail.com can reveal.

In the liberal bastion Portland, at least one clinic has started receiving out-of-staters who have less than six months to live and meet the other strict requirements of the state’s Death with Dignity (DWD) law.

Dr Nicholas Gideonse, the director of End of Life Choices Oregon, recently told a panel that he was advising terminally ill non-residents on travelling to Oregon to end their lives, despite a legal gray area.

Remember, suicidal people who qualify for assisted suicide are not usually offered prevention, meaning some suicidal people receive efforts to save their lives while others are abandoned to facilitation.

Activists also promised that assisted suicide would only occur in the context of a close doctor/patient relationship. But Oregon permits doctor-shopping. If one doctor says no, suicidal patients can merely ask an advocacy group to recommend an ideologically predisposed doctor willing to prescribe death. And suicide prescribers don’t even need to practice in the specialty that treats the patient’s underlying medical condition.

Other states are also loosening “strict guidelines.” For example, Vermont permits virtual assisted suicide, meaning the consultation can be over Zoom or Skype. California has attempted to compel doctors to participate in the assisted-suicide process — after promising MDs, in order to get the law passed, that they would not have to do any of that. The new anti-conscience law is on hold after a lawsuit. Other states where assisted suicide has been legalized have similarly loosened waiting times and procedures.

The ultimate goal — or, at least, the consequence — of allowing assisted suicide/euthanasia is death on demand. Some jurisdictions are getting there faster — Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada — and some slower, such as Oregon, Vermont, California, and Colorado. But that tide only flows in one direction.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.