Penelope A. Morrell, State Director
Concerned Women for America of Maine
To Members of the Health and Human Services Committee
Regarding L.D. #347, “An Act to Support Death with Dignity”
April 5, 2017
Chairs Senator Brakey and Representative Hymanson, and distinguished members of the Health and Human Services Committee, thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony on this legislation. I’m Penny Morrell, State Director of Concerned Women for America (CWA) of Maine.
I would like to start my testimony by challenging section 12, “statutory construction.” The statement that this action may not be construed to constitute assisted suicide is ludicrous. It’s like fake news. Just because it’s said, doesn’t make it true. This bill is assisted suicide, plain and simple. That said, I will address my testimony on that premise and request this committee vote L.D. #347 “Ought Not to Pass”.
Myths vs. facts:
- Myth: Assisted suicide offers patients more choices. Fact: Lethal medications, estimated to cost approximately $300, are far cheaper than most drugs used to treat chronic, terminal, or serious illness. Profit-driven insurance companies push patients toward their only affordable option.
- Myth: Assisted suicide protects patient dignity. Fact: Oregon, the first to legalize, reports that individuals choose it because of a disability such as loss of autonomy, loss of enjoyable life activities and loss of dignity.
- Myth: Assisted suicide is necessary to address unresponsive pain. Fact: Oregon reports that reasons have nothing to do with pain management, and is one of the least cited reasons. Doctors have a range of treatment options including even palliative sedation as a last resort. Ted Kennedy’s widow testified that any deficiencies in U.S. palliative care should be addressed by improving the system instead of killing the sufferer.
- Myth: Assisted suicide is restricted to the terminally ill. Fact: Language in the bill applies to patients with incurable, irreversible diseases that, if left untreated, could lead to death in six months. Under this definition, patients with diabetes and/or certain thyroid conditions would be eligible, yet with care, these conditions are not fatal.
- Myth: Doctors can identify patients with less than six months to live. Fact: This is false, and the legislation doesn’t require experienced doctors to determine if a patient is eligible to be put to death. Oregon reports that the physician only worked with the patient an average of 12 weeks, and in extreme cases, for a week. Oregon also reports that one patient took the medication nearly three years after making the initial request; therefore, the doctor could not have accurately determined the 6-month prognosis.
- Myth: Legal requirements in assisted suicide laws provide patients adequate protection. Fact: There is no mechanism for discovering malpractice or failure to comply with the rules. There is no oversight either. Oregon said they were not given the resources or legal authority to investigate or insert themselves. There are not sufficient safeguards against coercion and elder abuse. Because any doctor can write a lethal prescription, an abuser can “doctor shop” until they find a provider willing to assist them in killing their victim. Witness(es) requirements are lax. A witness may be able to benefit financially from the patient’s decease, or the witness(es) are not required to have any prior relationship with the patient. Neither witness is in a position to assert that the patient acts voluntarily, and in addition, no witnesses are required at the time of the death, so voluntary death is impossible to prove. In states where it is legal, the law allows doctors to voluntarily self-report participation and compliance. Oregon destroys the records after issuing its annual report.
CWA of Maine urges this committee to vote L.D. #347, “Ought Not to Pass.”