The Bill Applies to People With Years to Live

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

The bill applies to people with a “disease, illness or medical condition,” which is expected to cause death in less than twelve months.[1] Such persons may, in fact, have years to live. 

A.  Treatment Can Lead to Recovery

In 2000, Jeanette Hall was diagnosed with cancer in Oregon and made a settled decision to use Oregon’s law.[2] Her doctor convinced her to be treated instead, which eliminated the cancer.[3] Her declaration states:
It has now been 17 years since my diagnosis. If [my doctor] had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.[4]
 B.  Predictions of Life Expectancy Can Be Wrong

Eligible persons may also have years to live because predictions of life expectancy can be wrong. This is true due to actual mistakes (the test results got switched) and because predicting life expectancy is not an exact science.[5]

Consider John Norton, diagnosed with ALS at age 18.[6] He was told that he would get progressively worse (be paralyzed) and die in three to five years.[7] Instead, the disease progression stopped on its own.[8] In a 2012 affidavit, at age 74, he states:

If assisted suicide or euthanasia had been available to me in the 1950's, I would have missed the bulk of my life and my life yet to come.[9]
C. If Victoria Follows Oregon, the Bill Will Apply to People With Chronic Conditions, Such as Insulin Dependent Diabetes
The bill applies to people expected to die in less than twelve months due to a “disease, illness or medical condition.”[10] Oregon’s law applies to people expected to die in less than six months due to a "terminal disease."[11]

In practice, Oregon’s law is interpreted to include chronic conditions such as “diabetes mellitus,” better known as diabetes.[12] These conditions qualify for assisted suicide when there is dependence on medication, such as insulin, to live.  Oregon doctor, William Toffler, explains:
[P]eople with chronic conditions are “terminal” if without their medications, they have less than six months to live. This is significant when you consider that a typical insulin-dependent 20 year-old will live less than a month without insulin.[13]
Dr. Toffler adds:
Such persons, with insulin, are likely to have decades to live.[14]
If Victoria enacts the proposed bill and follows Oregon practice, the bill will apply to people who are dependent on medication, such as insulin, to live. Such persons, with appropriate treatment, can have decades to live.

Footnotes

[1]  The bill, Clause 9(1)(d), states:

[T]he person must be diagnosed with a disease, illness or medical condition that -
(i)  is incurable; and
(ii) is advanced, progressive and will cause death; and
(iii)is expected to cause death within weeks or months, not exceeding 12 months ...

[2]   Affidavit of Kenneth Stevens, MD, Hall declaration, in the appendix at A-33
[3]  Id.
[4]  Affidavit of Jeanette Hall,  4.
[5]  Cf. Jessica Firger, “12 million Americans misdiagnosed each year,” CBS NEWS, 4/17/14, and Nina Shapiro, “Terminal Uncertainty — Washington's new 'Death with Dignity' law allows doctors to help people commit suicide — once they've determined that the patient has only six months to live.  But what if they're wrong?,” The Seattle Weekly, 01/14/09.
[6]  Affidavit of John Norton, 08/18/12
[7]  Id., ¶ 1
[8]  Id., ¶ 4
[9]  Id., ¶ 5

[10]  Bill Clause 9(1)(d).
[11]  Oregon’s law states: “Terminal disease” means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months. Or. Rev. Stat. 127.800 s.1.01(12)
[12]  “Diabetes mellitus” is listed as a qualifying terminal disease in Oregon government reports.  See Declaration of William Toffler, MD,  pp. A-14 to A-15, ¶¶ 2-4, and report excerpts at A-17 & A-18.
[13]  Toffler Declaration at A-15, ¶ 5.
[14]  Id., ¶ 6.

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