At noon on the first anniversary of the implementation of Washington’s Death With Dignity Act [today], a local anti-euthanasia group has announced a demonstration against the law in front of the University of Washington Medical Center.
According to Eileen Geller, RN, BSN, President of True Compassion Advocates, protestors will “stand in solidarity with seniors, people with disabilities, and other victims of the ‘collateral damage’ caused by legalized assisted suicide in Washington.”
Over 52 Washingtonians have died under the Death with Dignity Act since the law was implemented. There were a total of 80 requests for assisted suicide, and 72 lethal drug overdoses dispensed, according to the March 2, 2010 statistics from the Washington State Department of Health.
Of the 80 requests, only four people received psychiatric consults assessing them for untreated clinical depression, a common problem among those with serious and chronic illnesses.
“I can only hope all of these reported assisted suicides were not the result of untreated depression or someone else’s choice,” stated Geller, adding that, “Unfortunately, given the Act’s flimsy reporting standards and potentially coercive provisions, there is no way to know for sure.”
The TCA president believes the overall number of people adversely affected by the Act is much higher than the official count of assisted suicides gathered by DOH.
In the last year, Geller said her organization has received increasing reports of the “collateral damage” from the DWDA, including calls about seniors who feel increased pressure to commit suicide or assisted suicide. They have also heard from health care professionals, she said, who were worried about vulnerable adults being adversely impacted by the “duty to die” climate fostered by the Act.
“These calls are an indicator of abuse,” said Geller, a longtime hospice nurse.
“I’ve spoken to patients for whom this pressure is very real. With the rates of elder abuse and financial exploitation climbing, Washington’s legalization of assisted suicide has created increased stress on vulnerable adults. With state budget cuts and a tough economy, the ‘choice,’ promised by the Death With Dignity Act is illusory.”
Geller emphasized, “The need for creating and maintaining in our communities assisted suicide-free ‘safe harbors’ has never been greater.”
“Hospitals, such as UW, which ‘opted in’ to allowing assisted suicide in their facilities, along with nursing homes and adult family homes, are hearing from patients, families, and community members,” she said.
“They are saying that they want safe, competent care, but not assisted suicide.”
For more information, contact Eileen Geller at 206-366-2715