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True Dignity Vermont is a grassroots, independent, citizen-led initiative in opposition to assisted suicide in Vermont. Vermonters deserve true dignity and compassion at the end of life, not the abandonment of assisted suicide. Killing is not compassion, and True Dignity Vermont will work to ensure our end-of-life choices respect the dignity of all Vermont citizens.

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In this article a palliative care physician reports from experience about how patients’ wishes for assisted suicide are often transient and how doctors cannot be certain what treatments or life events influence them to change their minds and want to live.  A patient with a doctor-prescribed lethal dose in his or her possession may commit suicide on one of the days he wants to die, never living to see the next day when the smallest change in his life could have made it seem worth living.

Thanks to Alex Schadenberg of  the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition for posting this article, by Dr. Joshua M Hauser, a palliative care physician at Northwestern University’s Buehler Center on Aging, Health, and Society.  The article, which you can read at http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2014/09/physician-assisted-suicide-clinicians.html,was originally posted at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/832058_2.









After the legal wrangling was over, all appeals had failed, and Oregon’s assisted suicide law began to result in reported deaths in 1999, the rate of non-assisted suicides in the state, which had been declining for a decade, immediately began to rise.  It has continued to do so.  In 2010 it was 35% over the national average (http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0909a.pdf.  By 2012, it was 41% over the national average (https://www.deschutes.org/DeschutesOrg/files/33/33d5338f-6e71-49ca-b6fa-051ac3293a8b.pdf).

Washington State legalized assisted suicide in March 2009, five and a half years ago.  Now we read that the non-assisted suicide rate is rising there (http://mifflin.pa.networkofcare.org/mh/news-article-detail.aspx?id=54947).

While no one writes in a suicide note that he or she is committing suicide because of having been influenced by media reports about it, the Centers for Disease Control long ago cautioned the media against romanticizing suicide because doing so may contribute to suicide contagion (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm).  The existence of suicide clusters is well known and reported, and counselors are routinely sent into schools in which a student has committed suicide to try to offset the possibility of suicide contagion.

How does the media respond to the cautions about suicide reporting?  This week a Seattle tv station ran an adoring piece about a woman who looks far from imminently dying when interviewed on the day before she commits suicide under Washington’s assisted suicide law (http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Death-with-Dignity-advocate-Remember-me-happy-and-alive-271113841.html?tab=video&c=y).

This story was run by a Washington media outlet 12 days after the report of rising Washington suicide rates posted above!  How many vulnerable people who watch this tv spot will now think suicide is an acceptable, honorable means of ending whatever problems they have?  Of course Vermont’s own pro-suicide group, Patient Choices, thought the spot was wonderful enough to post on its Facebook page, thus possibly spreading suicide contagion in our beloved state.  Marnie Wood, the assisted suicide advocate whose sister, suffering from  ALS, moved from VT to Oregon and committed suicide under that state’s law, has been traveling around  Vermont this summer with Linda Waite-Simpson, the VT legislator who was instrumental in getting assisted suicide legalized here and who now, amazingly, as she is running for re-election, is working for the assisted suicide group, Compassion and Choices.  The cited purpose of this tour is to “educate” VT doctors about how to prescribe lethal doses of barbiturates and  Vermont citizens about how to die prematurely by using them.  Wood constantly romanticizes her sister’s suicide, in direct contravention of the CDC warning.

No one has died under the  provisions of the evidently completely unneeded Vermont law, but Marnie Wood,  Linda Waite-Simpson, and the advocates from Patient Choices are trying as hard as they can to make assisted suicides start happening.  Everything possible includes speaking about suicide as “peaceful” and “beautiful” (http://digital.vpr.net/post/advocates-educate-doctors-and-patients-about-end-life-law).   Our media is helping them make suicide seem the most attractive option for people who have been told they are dying, by doctors who may or may not be correct in their diagnosis and prognosis.  They do not seem to care that it may also make suicide seem attractive to some who have no terminal diagnosis  at all.

If and when the advocates, with the help of the media,  succeed in finding someone to die under Act 39, we can be sure there will be a flurry of worshipful media coverage.  We can also predict with some certainty that, if these deaths start happening regularly in our state (the number of assisted suicides has increased each year in Oregon and Washington), the general suicide rate will also rise, just as it has in Oregon and as it is doing in Washington.

There is only one way to stop that from happening.  The media must hear of our opposition when they provide a forum for the suicide recruiters.  Much more importantly, our politicians must be taught in no uncertain terms that Vermonters do not want this law.  The legislature, in the next biennium, must repeal Act 39.


This leaves us nearly speechless.  Here in the US, where many states execute murderers by lethal injection, there have been incidences in which the drugs have failed, causing great suffering and a prolonged death.  Many in the US are calling for an end to executions using drugs that do not always work in the ways they were intended to.  Belgium has no capital punishment, presumably because the Belgians think it is cruel and because they recognize that there can be unintended consequences, as we have seen in the lethal injection executions in the US.

Now, however, a Belgian murderer/rapist, imprisoned for thirty years, has been granted euthanasia for suffering his lawyer says has been caused by failure to receive needed treatment in prison.  So Belgium, which does not believe in capital punishment, is now executing a man by means of lethal injection!  We have to presume this is more acceptable to them than giving the man the treatment he wants and needs.

The man, is, of course, not terminally ill; and his lawyer has outlined the way in which his desire for death could be prevented.

It would seem that the slippery slope in Belgium goes in a circle.


Somehow we missed this good letter when it appeared in the Burlington Free Press last June.

How can anyone say the law is working well when it hasn’t been used at all and when we don’t know where the lethal drugs that were obtained but not ingested are?  Unlike some earlier versions of the bill that were defeated, Act 39 does not make any provisions at all for safe disposal of unused prescriptions.  Barbiturates, the drugs used in assisted suicide, are known as “downers” when they are sold on the streets.

Here’s the letter,  which also points to the likelihood of suicide contagion once assisted suicide deaths begin to be reported in Vermont.

We found the letter at http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/opinion/readers/letters/2014/06/22/assisted-suicide-debate-continues/11107163/.   Here it is.  Thank you,  Patricia Brooks.

Assisted suicide law not working well

One year later physician assisted suicide, Act 39, is not working well as evidenced by Mr. Dick Walters’ Comment and Debate piece (“Death-with-dignity law is working well”) in the June 4 Free Press.

He indicates in his piece that two terminally ill people requested lethal drugs, but “both passed away before ingesting the medication.” It would appear that Act 39 wasn’t necessary, couldn’t insure manner of death and just left unused lethal drugs out there somewhere.

Act 39 is “legislative malpractice” as described by Edward Mahoney from Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare and needs to be repealed. The medical community must provide comprehensive palliative care to the terminally ill but not assisted suicide.

In a May 2013 New York Times article on the sharp rise in U.S. suicide rates, a Boston wife, who lost her 58 year old husband to suicide, said, “One suicide can inspire other people, unfortunately, to view suicide as an option.”

It is important for all of us to join the medical community in providing other loving options to the most vulnerable. Over and over again modern medicine has shown that most pain and suffering can be alleviated.

In the end the Judeo-Christian tradition of finding meaning in suffering may be the peace of mind that lethal drugs won’t provide. As Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning,” “if there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.”


Hospice programs have begun to flourish, but unfortunately, along with the great good they can do, a dark side has emerged as well, according to a recent article http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/08/21/as-more-hospices-enroll-patients-who-arent-dying-questions-about-lethal-doses-arise/  in the Washington Post:

An excerpt: Betty Mathews, 76, a retiree from a Las Vegas casino, was diagnosed last year with colon cancer, received chemotherapy treatments and then was enrolled in a hospice in August 2013. The hospice sent a nurse every Friday, Mathews said.

“I kept telling them to give me a blood test to see if I still had cancer,” Mathews said “They gave me pain-killers but I never took anything. My hair was growing, I was gaining weight. But they wouldn’t give me the test. The hospice people kept coming every Friday. I thought I was going to die.”

Last month, nearly a year after enrolling in hospice, the agency finally did a blood test. It indicated that she did not have cancer, she said.

Had she known she was healthy, “I would have got up out of this bed and started living.”

Mathews’ case may be the exception, but it illustrates an important point: We must be very careful about relegating those with terminal diagnoses to a twilight zone of hopelessness, in which they find themselves simply waiting to die, and are thus deprived of what could be many good days, weeks, months and even years, of living.

Moreover, individual hospice programs and the doctors associated with them should be evaluated carefully before they are engaged. While the goal of “dying well” is most certainly commendable, we must not forget that “living well” is still the priority of good palliative care.

Proponents of legal assisted suicide are always talking about how we put our pets down rather than allow them to suffer.  Years ago, Stephen Drake put that argument to sleep for anyone who actually stops to think:


But there is another side to that story.  More and more people are buying wheelchairs and other equipment to allow elderly and handicapped dogs and cats, who would previously have been euthanized,  to live longer and better lives.

This blog post captures the bewilderment and hurt, in the face of this phenomenon, of people with disabilities, who hear, even from relatives, statements such as one of True Dignity’s board members (who has no disability but is elderly) recently heard from her own sister,  in defense of assisted suicide:  “I don’t want to be an invalid.”  http://www.davehingsburger.blogspot.ca/2014/08/a-dogs-valued-life-im-envious.html

We will write more at a future date about increasingly coercive pressure on the elderly and terminally ill and people with disabilities not to accept life-prolonging care.

What, we ask, is so bad, about being an invalid, at whatever time in life?  If it isn’t bad for a dog, why is it bad for a person?  What is becoming of us, that we don’t want to care for people as we do our beloved pets but just want them to die and spare us the cost and trouble, even if getting them out of the way means we aiding them in committing suicide.

This is so very sad.


The following article is  from the August 13, 2014 edition of The Washington Post: 


The article expresses concern that some of the posts about the death of actor Robin Williams might contribute to suicide contagion, a problem recognized by the US Centers for Disease Control, which issued guidelines for preventing it back in 1994 (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00031539.htm).  They caution the media, not to conceal suicides, but to avoid repetitive and continuous coverage, any statements that might glorify or romanticize suicide, and detailed descriptions of suicide methods.  Though the article is concerned primarily with a particular Tweet, the media, aided by public authorities, has violated all three proscriptions.

On yesterday’s True Dignity post, our board member Carrie wrote, “Once we legally endorse suicide for some reasons, we begin the conversation about endorsing it for any reason.”

The comments to the Post article reveal the truth of this statement.  They say a lot about how attitudes about suicide have changed since 1994, a time when there was no legal assisted suicide anywhere in the world.  Suicide was once universally lamented, and mourned.  No one doubted that every effort should be made to prevent it.  Many commenters to today’s article defend suicide as a rational and justifiable solution to depression.

In Vermont, now that assisted suicide is legal, doctors are required by law to tell a patient with a terminal condition that assisted suicide is a legally available option, whether or not he or she asks.  Linda Waite Simpson, the state representative of the pro-suicide advocacy group Compassion and Choices, recently told a reporter the group opposes suicide in cases of clinical depression but not when the person asking for it is experiencing what she called, “situational depression”, such as might be felt by someone who has received a terminal prognosis.  Today, the media is speculating on the factors in Robin Williams’ life situation that may have contributed to his suicide.  In the Netherlands and Belgium, where both assisted suicide and euthanasia are legal, we know that the suffering of depression has come over the years since legalization to be considered an adequate reason for a person to be assisted in suicide or euthanized.  What in the world could lead anyone to think that “safeguards” will be able to distinguish between clinical and situational depression in a way that will protect those whose depression is treatable, especially since the decision about whether to refer a patient for psychological evaluation is left to the discretion of the doctor receiving the request.  VT law takes no account of the fact that studies have shown even terminally ill people can be successfully treated for depression (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1291326/; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10541987.

Safeguards also fail to take into account suicide contagion. The law ignores the fact that statistics in Oregon show a rise in the suicide rate there that began just as the law was beginning to be implemented (3 years after its adoption) and that is consistent with suicide contagion.  The first victims of suicide contagion are always people suffering from depression.

Assisted suicide advocates are traveling across Vermont this summer, holding meetings to recruit doctors and patients for assisted suicide; they call it “education”.    Already they are unashamedly calling assisted suicide “a beautiful death” and encountering no opposition to that term except from True Dignity.  Already they are telling us that depression is not necessarily a disqualifier for assisted suicide.  Make no mistake about it.  Vermont is leading the way down the same slope that is seen in the comments to the Post article, a slope that is very slippery indeed.


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