Assisted Suicide Targets the Vulnerable
- Assisted suicide can be targeted to those who cannot afford real care and treatment, as illustrated by widely reported cases in Oregon involving low income patients denied treatment under the state health plan but offered lethal drugs.
- According to the Washington State Department of Health, 13% who used assisted suicide in 2015 cited the financial implication of treatment and 52% stated they feared they were a burden to their family, friends and other caregivers.
- Of those who used assisted suicide in 2013 and 2014, fewer than 3% of people were referred for psychological evaluation, according to a report by the Oregon Public Health Division.
- Studies have documented prejudice toward denying people with disabilities life-saving treatment, which raises the issue of whether there would be similar societal pressure for disabled people to use assisted suicide.
Safeguards do not protect people from this lethal act
- Families need not be included or even informed: Neither Oregon nor Washington State require next of kin be notified when a person requests drugs to commit suicide.
- Lack of Proper Consent: An analysis of 2005 medical reports in the Netherlands found that 23% off those given lethal drugs that year did not provide explicit consent.
- Loose Tracking of Lethal Drugs: Of the people who received lethal drugs in Washington State in 2015, 78% ingested the lethal drugs, 11% did not, according to a 2015 Washington State Department of Health Report. It is unknown what the remaining 11% did with the lethal drug or if any of the drugs were transferred to others.
- Assisted Suicide Normalizes Suicide: Oregon’s non-assisted suicide rate was 42% higher than the national average in 2012, a decade after assisted suicide was legalized there, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The goal of palliative care is to improve quality of life for both the person and his or her loved ones.
Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work together with a person’s regular doctor and medical team to ease symptoms of disease, relieve stress, and provide emotional support. Medical treatment intended to cure or stop the progress of a disease or condition can be provided in addition to palliative care.
The palliative care team works with the person and their loved ones to explore options and develop goals for care that are unique to every person facing a serious disease or medical condition.
Palliative care can help more people if there is increased awareness, access, and availability. Palliative care is treated in the same way as other medical services and is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.
- More than 1,700 hospitals around the country have a palliative care team, including 31 hospitals here in Minnesota.
- Six million people in the U.S. could benefit from palliative care.
- People of color, low income people, and those who live in rural areas have less access to the benefits of palliative care.
Palliative Care supports the whole patient
- Palliative care provides comprehensive and individualized treatment that encompasses all aspects of care – physical, emotional, practical and spiritual.
- Personal, customized care is provided based on patient’s age, beliefs, cultural background and existing support systems.
- Care is provided in partnership with curative or other regular medical treatment, as it shouldn’t be a decision of one or the other.
- Patients and families explore what they believe and value so that they be at peace.
Palliative Care improves quality of life and level of comfort
- Research has shown that palliative care helps relieve pain and other symptoms of serious illnesses and health conditions.
- Provides resources to help patients and families cope with the mental and emotional stresses that arise from many conditions and illnesses.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, palliative care is beneficial to patient and family health and well-being.
- A number of recent studies that have shown patients who have their symptoms controlled and are able to communicate their emotional needs have a better experience with their medical care.
Palliative Care reduces health care costs without stopping life-prolonging treatment
- According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology and other recent research, palliative care reduces health care costs.
- Palliative care results in decreased ICU and hospital stays, pharmacy costs, and unnecessary tests
- Through rigorously coordinated care, palliative care providers offer efficiently coordinated care transitions that are easier for patients and their families, while ensuring consistent care during a change in care settings.
- Nearly 70% of Medicare costs are related to people with four or more chronic conditions, people who are ideal candidates for palliative care.
- If palliative care were fully available in the nation’s hospitals, total savings could amount to $6 billion per year.
If people are aware of palliative care, they seek it out
- 95% of respondents agreed that it is important that patients with serious illness and their families be educated about palliative care, according to a national poll conducted in 2011.
- 92% of respondents said they would be likely to consider palliative care for a loved one if they had a serious illness.
- 92% of respondents said it is important that palliative care services be made available at all hospitals for patients with serious illness and their families.
Minnesota is a care state; it’s time for us to commit to strong palliative care for all Minnesotans
- People of color, low income people and people who live in rural areas do not access palliative care at the same rates as other Minnesotans.
- Factors contributing to disparities in the use of palliative care among people of color are not well understood. Research in this area has focused on racial and ethnic differences in knowledge, cultural beliefs, and treatment preferences as barriers to the use of palliative care. Studies document a disproportionate gap in knowledge about palliative care among minority older adults.
- Smaller hospitals in rural areas are less likely to provide palliative care services.
- Research shows where physician assisted suicide is available, there is less commitment to offering palliative care to patients who could benefit from it.