Once again, an assisted suicide bill is being introduced in Concord. Cornerstone Action will be there to say that New Hampshire can do better. Caring, not killing, is the right approach when we’re faced with terminal illness.
Unlike last year’s “study” bill, this year’s HB 1659-FN would directly legalize assisted suicide. The sponsors of the bill use all kinds of words to avoid saying suicide: “death with dignity,” “patient directed care,” “autonomy,” “end of life decisions.”
We find more clarity in the bill’s Statement of Purpose, which contains a legislative finding clearly stating that everything the bill would authorize is to be considered a type of medical care.
This is not authentic compassion for anyone suffering from a terminal illness. Furthermore, a pro-suicide agenda will affect everyone in New Hampshire. Here are some of the unintended consequences of assisted suicide legalization.
- Exploits medically vulnerable individuals. Once assisted suicide becomes a form of medical care, there is no telling how many medically, psychologically, and financially vulnerable Granite Staters would get the message that suicide is cheaper than supportive services.
- Undermines suicide prevention efforts. Suicide in New Hampshire, especially among veterans and teens, is rightly recognized as a public health problem to be solved. Passing an assisted suicide law sends a confounding and false message to anyone considering suicide: your life is only as valuable as you think it is.
- Opens the door to broader availability. Regardless of the so-called protections that to limit assisted suicide’s use to people with terminal illnesses, “mission creep” is inevitable. Oregon’s assisted suicide law has been in effect since 1997. The 2018 annual report on the law’s effect, published by the state of Oregon, lists diabetes and arthritis among the “terminal conditions” that made patients eligible for assisted suicide. (See footnote 3 of the Oregon report, page 13.)
- Pain is often not why individuals request assisted suicide. You only need to look to this Oregon study to see that most individuals sought assisted suicide because they feared “being a burden.” This puts individuals with chronic illness or disability who need support at risk and further marginalizes and devalues them.
- No one can accurately predict end of life — not even a physician. This opens the door to death under a wrong assumption or even unintended tragedy because of an inaccurate diagnosis.
- Assisted suicide creates a culture of death rather than one of help-seeking. The purpose of medical care is to treat illness and improve life, not to facilitate death. By making assisted suicide part of the discussion and a treatment “option,” especially when someone has a chronic illness, it’s only a matter of time before personal choice becomes a “duty to die.”
New Hampshire is stronger when assisted suicide isn’t part of the culture. We will stand with other New Hampshire advocates for the dignity of human life in opposition to HB 1659-FN.