Cornerstone Urges Legislators to Reject Assisted Suicide, HB 513 (2011)

Cornerstone Action is a non-partisan, non-profit public policy organization of 6,000 New Hampshire residents. We oppose HB 513 just as we opposed a similar bill in 2009. This is poor public policy, whether it’s called “death with dignity” (in 2009’s HB 304), “aid in dying” (HB 513), or what we believe is the more apt “assisted suicide.” There is no dignity or aid when a prescription written to end a human life is regarded as a medical treatment.

  •  “Aid in dying” is a back-door cost-cutting measure that puts a dollar sign between patient and caregiver. Palliative, rehabilitative, and psychological care will always be more expensive than a lethal dose of a drug. There is no telling how many people will decide, with the state’s approval, that death is cheaper and therefore preferable. This is insidious coercion.
  • Effective monitoring to guard against abuse of the law will be impossible under the terms of this bill. The bill would require the state to collect statistical information, review only a sample, and generate an annual report. Where would the state get its information? From voluntary reporting by the physicians writing the prescriptions for the death drugs. The section of the bill that details what must go into the patient record is silent about information to be provided to the state. The Oregon experience since that state legalized assisted suicide in 1998 is instructive. We are attaching an article from the Patients Rights Council summarizing what is and is not included in Oregon’s annual report.
  • Counseling is optional under this bill. If an attending or consulting physician suspects a patient’s judgement is impaired but the counselor deems otherwise, the counselor’s determination prevails.
  • Coercion will go undetected. One paragraph in the bill makes coercion of a patient a class A felony. How is coercion going to be detected once the patient is dead?

Will a patient seek out assisted suicide out of financial concerns? Will a lethal dose of medication sometimes not work as intended, resulting in brain damage instead of death? Will patients from out of state come to New Hampshire for “regular treatment” in order to qualify assisted suicide? No legislator can answer these questions, because HB 513 requires no follow-up to the prescription of a lethal dose of drugs. We recommend swift rejection of this bill so that the full House can go on record once again saying “no” to an assault on the dignity of medically vulnerable individuals.