April 1, 2017 |

Legislation undermines value of human life

Under the guise of compassion, a Physician Assisted Suicide bill (HB 54) has been filed by Representative Harriet Drummond. This so-called “Right to Die” bill is nothing less than “State Sponsored Homicide”. Homicide is the “killing of one human being by another human being”.

In 1959 Alaska instituted its state constitution. Section 7 of the Alaska Constitution provides that no person will be deprived of life without due process of law and Section 22 protects a person’s right to privacy.

The Alaskan Supreme Court in Sampson vs. Alaska 31P 3rd 88 (AK 2001), held that physician assisted suicide is illegal. Illegal because the Alaska Constitution’s guarantee of privacy and liberty is afforded to terminally ill human beings.

The authors of HB 54 state that their bill is about terminally ill persons dying with dignity. Attempting to sanitize the process with semantics does not alter the fact that the state would be participating in a homicide.

Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks. Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. Patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that cure is “impossible” (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.211). In short, human life is inherently valuable.

Furthermore, the Physician Assisted Suicide bill supports a perverse financial alignment between persons and/or entities who would benefit by a vulnerable person’s death. Government health care coverage and/or insurance coverage for medical care of a vulnerable person could be adversely influenced by a physician’s opinion regarding the financing of a vulnerable person’s care. In short, it is likely a vulnerable person, due to economic, social and personal pressures, would feel obligated to be euthanized because their family and/or state would be better served by their death.

As an advocate of an individual’s right to life and privacy, I am concerned about the well-being of the most vulnerable among us. Physician assisted homicide legislation is anything but compassionate.

Alaska has been in the forefront of protecting vulnerable adults:

• AS.11.511.200 makes it a crime for a family to abandon and not support a vulnerable adult.

• AS 44.21.415 establishes the Office of Elder Fraud and Assistance to protect older persons from exploitation by another person.

• AS.47.24 requires health care givers, clergy and state employees to report exploitation and abuse that may result in imminent risk of physical harm to a vulnerable person.

• Even the Health Care Decision Act (13.52.120), which permits a “Do Not Resuscitate Order,” specifically states that the Health Care Decision Act establishes a presumption in favor of life.

Alaskans confirm their concern for elders and vulnerable adults by providing senior benefit programs, sponsoring reduction of real estate taxes, funding home and community based senior grants, sponsoring a missing vulnerable adult notification program (Silver Alerts), and sponsoring health and safety programs educating Alaskans about the futility of suicide. Over the years, Alaskan policy makers have protected the most vulnerable among us.

The State of Alaska has no business being complicit in right to life/death issues. Life and death are personal to the individual and constitutionally protected. Any legislation which purports to allow a physician or other third party to assist in the taking of the life of another is inconsistent with Alaskans’ values.

Contact your legislators and let them know that HB 54 should be defeated.

Leonard T. Kelley is an Older Persons Action Group board member, attorney and advocate for vulnerable individuals’ rights. The opinion in this column is his own. He invites others to submit their thoughts on this topic.