Physician assisted suicide is not compassionate

Under the guise of compassion a Physician Assisted Suicide Bill (HB99) has been offered by certain members of the legislature. The so called “Right to Die” bill is nothing less than “State Sponsored Homicide”.

In 1959 Alaska instituted the state constitution. Section 7 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 Supreme Court in Sampson vs. Alaska held that physician assisted suicide is illegal. Notwithstanding, authors of HB99 state that the 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. It is incomprehensible to envision a physician disregarding the Hippocratic Oath (“first do no harm”) and participating in the proposed scheme, but there is always a Kevorkian out there.

It is likely a person, due to economic, social and personal pressures, could feel obligated to be euthanized because their family and 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 “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. Alaskan policy makers have over the years protected the most vulnerable among us.

In summary, 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 would likely be found to violate the Constitution of Alaska.

Leonard T. Kelley is the Older Persons Action Group board president. The opinions in this column are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of OPAG. He invites others to submit their thoughts on this topic.