On behalf of our supporters throughout New Hampshire, we urge you to reject HB 1325, called by its sponsors a “death with dignity” bill. There’s no dignity involved when physician-prescribed death is regarded as medical treatment.
Physician-prescribed death is a backdoor coat-cutting measure that puts a dollar sign between patient and healthcare provider. A lethal dose of prescription medication is cheaper than palliative, rehabilitative, or psychological care. HB 1325 would become a cost-containment tool. As for the bill’s requirement that a physician be the one to prescribe lethal medication, that would not hold up for long in a medical environment that depends more and more heavily on nurse practitioners and physician assistants for primary care.
HB 1325 opens the door to abuse of vulnerable patients.
- There is no telling how many people would ask for physician-prescribed death out of fear that seeking care might cost their families too much.
- The terms of HB 1325 would also allow a person who might benefit financially from a person’s death to be a facilitator of that death by witnessing a written request for physician-prescribed death. Two witnesses are required; one may be an heir of the patient or an employee of the patient’s health care facility.
- There is no way to determine whether a patient’s ultimate decision to ingest the lethal medication is voluntary at the moment of ingestion.
- Nothing is more certain to inhibit support for palliative- and supportive-care strategies than to make physician-prescribed death a treatment option. Pain management, respite care, and adaptive technology can require complex, time-consuming effort. Taking a handful of pills is cheap. The negative message to vulnerable, depressed individuals would be unmistakable.
The reporting requirements have no teeth. HB 1325 would have a state agency collect information about physician-prescribed deaths, but those reports would not be public records. There are no penalties in the bill for physicians who fail to report prescribing intentionally lethal drug dosages. There are no penalties for incomplete reports. In fact, virtually no sanctions could be applied to a physician facilitating a patient’s death, as long as she or he was acting in “good faith.”
Terminal, as defined in HB 1325, does not mean that the patient’s death is imminent. It means that an irreversible condition exists that will result in premature death. Does that include diabetes? Parkinson’s disease? Being HIV-positive? Having a permanent mobility impairment? The bill’s provisions are not limited to people who are in the end stage of a disease. Essentially, HB 1325 is for anyone with a disability, broadly defined. A look at annual reports from Oregon about its own physician-prescribed death program shows that in practice, “severe and unrelenting pain” includes not wanting to be a burden to loved ones and a fear of losing autonomy.
For all these reasons, we speak for our supporters in urging you to reject HB 1325.
Cornerstone Action is the legislative and issue advocacy arm of Cornerstone Policy Research. Cornerstone Policy Research is a New Hampshire non-partisan, non-profit pro-family education and research organization.