Physician prescribed suicide is on the New Hampshire House legislative agenda. The bill, HB 304, is passing through the House Judiciary Committee and will be forwarded to the full House for action. It is a bill that some see as the first step towards an euthanasia policy.
There is no question that if a person is terminally ill, life is drawing to an end, and the person is in severe pain that he or she can commit suicide. It is a personal decision. But when government legalizes suicide, government is validating and promoting the act. This bill will authorize doctors to prescribe suicide pills for patients that have been diagnosed with an illness that might cause them to die within 6 months. This lawful authority is not limited to patents in pain, but includes those depressed, even if that depression comes and goes over time. Further the bill authorizes the doctor to prescribe the pill but does not require the doctor to be present and administer the pills. What happens if the patient obtains the pills and decides not to use them? Do the pills go into the medicine cabinet where they can be removed by others?
The American Medical Association, American College of Physicians and many church bodies oppose this bill. It is one thing for a physician to be authorized by the patient through the authority of a living will not to perform heroic measures to prolong life, but it crosses the line from the healing arts to the killing arts to tell physicians they should be active participants in causing death. Currently it is a class B felony in New Hampshire if a person aids or solicits another to commit suicide. That protection should remain in place.
And what have the sponsors, Rep Weed, Democrat from Keene, Rep. Watrous, Democrat from Concord, Rep. Mitchell Democrat from Jaffrey, titled the bill: Death with Dignity. There is no dignity in doctors becoming the instrument of death.
The debate on this bill continues in the NH Legislature. There is time for you to express your views. Write, call and e-mail your representatives and senator.
Representative Robert H. Rowe
Milford and Amherst