the 'slippery slope'
Potentially vulnerable groups of people have not been negatively impacted on by physician-assisted dying or voluntary euthanasia.
- Battin et al demonstrate that groups of potentially vulnerable patients which includes adults aged 85+, disabled people, people of lower socio-economic status and those suffering from mental and psychiatric illness etc. are not negatively impacted on by physician assisted dying and voluntary euthanasia (1).
- In 2009 in Oregon people aged 55-84 years accounted for 78% and those aged 85 and older accounted for 13.6% of all assisted dying cases. These figures demonstrate that older adults are not being targeted by assisted dying legislation (2).
- Similarly in the Netherlands rates of assisted dying where lowest in those aged 80+ and the highest rate was in those aged 65 years and under (3).
- Reasons for choosing an assisted death are focused on patient control and quality of life rather than pain control and being a burden or the financial implications of treatment. Loss of autonomy (97%), being less able to engage in enjoyable activities (86%) and loss of dignity (92%) are the main reason for patient's choosing an assisted death. Inadequate pain control (10.2%), burden (25%) and financial implications of the treatment (2%) are less frequently given as reasons (4).
(1) Battin MP, van der Heide A, Ganzini L, van der Wal G and Onwuteaka Philipsen BD (2007) Legal physician-assisted dying in Oregon and the Netherlands: evidence concerning the impact on patients in 'vulnerable' groups Journal of Medical Ethics 33: 591-97
(2) Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (1999-2009)
(3) van der Heide A et al (2007) End-of-Life practices in the Netherlands under the Euthanasia Act New England Journal of Medicine 356: 1957-65
(4) 2009 Summary of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act (2010)