A dangerous step toward euthanasia.
Physician-prescribed suicide is on the New Hampshire House's legislative agenda. House Bill 304 is currently passing through the House Judiciary Committee and will be forwarded to the full House for action sometime in January 2010.
Unfortunately, this is a bill that many see as the first step toward a policy of euthanasia in New Hampshire.
There is no question that for a person who is terminally ill, in severe pain and whose life is drawing to an end, suicide is an option. It is a very personal decision and act for those who feel that there is absolutely no alternative and who believe that there is nothing more to live for. But this is a personal derision for the individual alone, not to be encouraged by law.
When we in government pass laws legalizing suicide, including the authorization of others to aid in the act, government does more than just legalize it, government sets a new standard, validating and promoting suicide.
HB 304 does just this. The bill authorizes doctors to prescribe suicide pills for patients that have been diagnosed with an illness that might cause them to die within 6 months. The bill was introduced only for patients who were in severe, unrelenting suffering, but it was amended so that authority is not limited to patents in severe pain, but those depressed, even if that depression comes and goes over time.
The bill only authorizes the doctor to prescribe the terminal prescription. It does not require the doctor to obtain or control the medication or to be present and administer the pills. The collection of the prescription and administration is totally in the control of the patient.
If the bill passes I can see great conflicts arising in the medical and pharmaceutical community. What of the doctors, hospitals and pharmacies that have a conflict with taking an active role in the death of others? Since authority need not be given by the patient's established physician, I can see this resulting in shopping for doctors and facilities that engage in and encourage this practice. There is also the question of prospective heirs encouraging the act.
What happens if the patient obtains the pills and decides not to use them? Do the pills go into the medicine cabinet where they can be removed by others? There are far too many unknowns to rash forward with this form of legislation.
It is no wonder that the American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and many church bodies oppose this bill. It is one thing for a physician to be authorized by the patient through the authority of a living will not to perform heroic measures to prolong life, but it crosses the line from the healing arts to the killing arts to tell physicians they should be active participants in causing death.
Rep. Robert H. Rowe, R-Amherst, sits on the House Judiciary Committee.
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