Last week State Representative Tom Cochran introduced a bill that would legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in Michigan. Rep. Cochran cites years as a professional medic and what he believes are the realities of the terminally ill as reasons for introducing his bill.
RLM's Legislative Director Ed Rivet was asked by FOX 17 to comment on Rep. Cochran's bill.
It is important to note that this bill will not go anywhere. With prolife majorities in Michigan's Legislature and our state's unique history there is no hope for this bill to get a hearing, let alone advance for a floor vote. Often representatives who are in the minority party will introduce controversial bills to create media attention or conversation on a given topic.
Rep. Cochran’s bill isn’t the first time something like this has been introduced. The people of Michigan decided the issue of doctor-prescribed suicide in 1998 when a ballot initiative (Proposal B) that would have legalized it in Michigan was overwhelmingly defeated by 71 percent of voters. Once people saw the many troubling questions doctor-prescribed suicide creates, the initiative was easily defeated. Proposal B was the conclusion of Jack Kevorkian's efforts to turn
Michigan into a haven for euthanasia. Kevorkian eventually went to jail for
second-degree murder after killing his final patient, Thomas Youk.
Rep. Cochran's bill shares many of the same problems of earlier efforts in Michigan and current efforts in other states. "Safeguards" wouldn't include tracking the deadly drugs after prescription and the bill would make it illegal to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to detect any abuses. Hospitals and the insurance industry would face the choice of paying for patient's costly medical care or instead offering them cheap lethal drugs. Patients could face pressure from caregivers or family members.
Since Proposal B failed in 1998, Michigan has made (and continues to make) advances in both palliative and hospice care. With these advances, cases of unmitigated suffering are extremely rare. Pain management and hospice care provide appropriate and sufficient means to meet patients' needs for quality end of life care.
The greatest challenge we face as a nation for end-of-life medical care comes not from pain and suffering, but from medical staff not educating patients on these advances in pain management techniques. Looking at statistics from Oregon, an overwhelming 90 percent of patients requesting the lethal drugs cite fears of loss of autonomy or abilities, compared to only about 25 percent who cite improper pain control or (more specifically) concerns about pain control in the future.
There was been a recent nationwide push to embrace suicide. There are now six states that allow doctors to give patients lethal doses of drugs. Even with these states making this practice legal, major medical associations (including the AMA) and disabilities rights groups continue to reject doctor-prescribed suicide as an acceptable medical practice.
Rep. Cochran's bill provides us with an opportunity to educate people about the grave concerns these laws create. The ballot proposal in 1998 was defeated because the public became adequately informed on the issue, and we will continue to inform them as time passes.