Friday, June 30, 2017

HB 160: Proposed Amendments Are a Sham

To view a pdf version, click here.

HB 160 seeks to legalize physician-assisted suicide, assisted suicide and euthanasia as those terms are traditionally defined. Assisting persons can have their own agendas: An adult child wanting an inheritance; a financial predator seeking financial gain; or a doctor wanting to hide malpractice. The bill is, regardless, stacked against the individual and must be rejected.


A. Even If a Patient Struggled, Who Would Know?

The bill, as originally drafted and with the proposed amendments in HA-1, has no supervision over administration of the lethal dose.[1]

In addition, the drugs used are water and alcohol soluble, such that they can be injected into a sleeping or restrained person.[2] Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director for the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, puts it this way:
With assisted suicide laws in Washington and Oregon [and with the proposed bill and amendments], perpetrators can . . . take a “legal” route, by getting an elder to sign a lethal dose request. Once the prescription is filled, there is no supervision over administration. Even if a patient struggled, “who would know?” (Emphasis added).[3]
B. The Death Certificate Will List a Terminal Illness as the Cause of Death, Which Will Prevent Prosecution for Murder

The bill, as drafted and as amended, states:
The death certificate must list the underlying terminal illness as the cause of death. (Emphasis added).[4]
The significance of requiring a terminal illness to be listed as the cause of death is that it creates a legal inability to prosecute. The official legal cause of death is a terminal illness (not murder) as a matter of law.

More to the point, heirs, other financial predators and malpracticing doctors will all be let off the hook: The bill will create the perfect crime.

C. The Proposed Felony for Undue Influence Is Unenforceable

The proposed amendments contain a felony for “undue influence,” which is not defined. House Amendment No. 1, lines 40 to 42,states:
A person who coerces or exerts undue influence on a patient to make a request for medication or to destroy a rescission of a request for medication under this chapter with the intent or effect of causing the patient’s death is guilty of a class A felony.[5]
The bill also allows a patient’s heir to be one of two witnesses on the lethal dose request form.[6] This is a marker of undue influence in the context of a will.[7]

The bill can be read as allowing one of the patient’s two physicians to be a witness on the lethal dose request form.[8]

Participation of a person in “apparent authority” such as a health care professional is another marker of undue influence, as is the fact that the person potentially being influenced is ill. This is in the elder abuse context.[9]

How do you prove that undue influence occurred when the bill does not define it and the bill also allows conduct used to prove it in other contexts? You can’t. The proposed felony for undue influence is illusory and unenforceable.

Respectfully Submitted,

/s/

Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA
Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore, P.S.
Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation
www.choiceillusiondelaware.org
1001 4th Avenue, Suite 4400
Seattle, WA USA 98154
206 389 1754 main reception
206 389 1562 direct line
206 697 1217 cell

Footnotes:

[1] See HB 160 in its entirety, original version plus amendments. The amendments are attached hereto as pages A-1 and A-2.
[2] In Oregon, the drugs used include Secobarbital, Pentobarbital (Nembutal) and Phenobarbital. Secobarbital and Pentobarbital are soluble in water and alcohol. See http://www.drugs.com/pr/seconal-sodium.html and http://www.drugs.com/pro/nembutal.html. Phenobarbital is soluble in alcohol. See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2977013.
[3] Alex Schadenberg, Letter to the Editor, “Elder abuse a growing problem,” The Advocate, Official Publication of the Idaho State Bar, October 2010, page 14, available at http://www.margaretdore.com/info/October_Letters.pdf.
[4] See: HB 160 as originally drafted, § 2504B(b), lines 95-96; and the proposed amendments in HA-1, line 27.
[5] Proposed amendments, lines 40-42.
[6] See § 2504B(b), as drafted and as amended.
[7] Compare Washington State’s probate statute (providing that a gift to one of two witnesses on a will creates a presumption of “duress, menace, fraud, or undue influence”).
[8] The amendment states "The patient’s attending physician and consulting physician . . .  may not serve as a witness  . . .  . "(Emphasis added). This language can be read as allowing one of the two physicians to serve as a witness. See HA 1, lines 7-10.
[9] See for example, this undue influence statute from California (undue influence factors include "the vulnerability of the victim," including but not limited to "illness, disability, injury," and the "influencer's apparent authority" for example, being a "health care professional").