Doctor's Perspective on AB 2747

California Bill Promotes Assisted-Suicide in Disguise

By Eric Chevlen, MD

California Assembly Bill 2747 purports to address problems of end of life care. In fact, it is a bill to enact "ending life care."

The key feature of the bill is its creation of a new caste of people who may legally be put to death by their doctors. As is characteristic of all modern euthanasia efforts, this one is disguised as a palliative intervention. The procedure is called "palliative sedation with voluntary stopping of eating and drinking." It might, with equal justice and greater candor, be called putting a person into a drug-induced coma and then starving and dehydrating him to death.

In its ham-fisted approach, AB 2747 would require all physicians and health care facilities to offer a set of patients information concerning their "right," among other things, to be put to death by this medical intervention. Who must be so informed? All patients who are diagnosed as having a "terminal illness" or given a prognosis of less than a year. Thus, this law would apply to most patients found to have, for example, recurrent cancer, and would become operative on the very day of their diagnosis. Any other Californian who is also diagnosed, or misdiagnosed, as having a more than fifty percent likelihood of dying within a year must be offered information about this newly minted version of medical extermination. Since the law excludes only sudden and accidental deaths from its sweep, it would apply to about 200,000 Californians per year.

If this bill becomes law, then within five years, a full million of Californians must be offered information about a right to be killed. What possible public good could underlie such a reckless-yes, and heartless-indifference to the welfare of so many? What crying public need could justify such contemptuous treatment of so many at the time of their greatest vulnerability? The authors of the bill say that their goal is to improve end of life care in the state, and perhaps they are sincere. But the means they have chosen are so grossly disproportionate, if not antagonistic, to that end, that we must look elsewhere for a more likely fountainhead of this legislation.

This bill is more realistically understood as a stalking horse for enactment of euthanasia on demand. If 200,000 Californians are offered information on this dubious rushed exit from life, inevitably some will accept. Then the public will be pummeled by emotionally manipulative accounts of people lingering in comas for days or weeks until death by dehydration finally claims their lives. "If they're being killed anyhow," the people will argue, "why not do it more expeditiously?" Indeed, if the goal is to render a person unconscious unto death, why not simply add a lethal injection after the coma-inducing agent is given? Ironically, enactment of this bill would make the case that the same lethal injection considered cruel and inhuman for convicted murderers should be made available for hundreds of thousands of Californians whose only crime is poor health, or poor prognostication by their doctors.

I am not arguing that end of life care cannot be improved, nor that there is never a need to sedate a suffering patient until his natural death claims him. But I am arguing from my personal professional experience that need for such palliative sedation is shrinkingly rare.

I am a board certified specialist in both medical oncology and hospice & palliative medicine. In over thirty years of my caring for sick and dying people, I have not seen a single case, even in retrospect, where such intervention was necessary.

Learning that one has a fatal disease has been called the ultimate in having a bad day. Let us not make our days worse; let us not make our days fewer.

Dr. Eric M. Chevlen is the former director of Palliative Care at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown, Ohio. He is certified by the American Boards of Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology, Hematology, Pain Medicine, and Hospice & Palliative Medicine. He is co-author with Wesley J.  Smith of Power over Pain: How to Get the Pain Control You Need, published by the International Task Force on Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide.

FURTHER READING

Killing the Pain, Not the Patient: Palliative Care vs. Assisted Suicide USCCB website

RELATED CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHINGS

Questions about Medically Assisted Nutrition and Hydration US Bishops
Responses to Certain Questions Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration Vatican
Teaching on Euthanasia and Suicide (Excerpt from Gospel of Life) John Paul II
Living the Gospel of Life US Bishops
Declaration on Euthanasia Vatican

 



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