Assisted suicide group is using COVID-19 outbreak to push death as good option, activist group warns

Campaigners against assisted suicide hold a rally outside Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 27, 2015.
Campaigners against assisted suicide hold a rally outside Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland, on May 27, 2015. | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Some groups are using the COVID-19 crisis to legitimize and promote assisted suicide as a viable option for patients using telehealth, a pro-life advocacy group has warned. 

According to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, a recent fundraising email from Kim Callinan, the president of Compassion and Choices, which lobbies for assisted suicide, asserted that the widespread coronavirus crisis presents an opportunity to promote what is euphemistically known as "medical aid in dying" or "death with dignity." 

"As always, we are responding quickly to the needs and opportunities of the times. As the workforce grapples with the pandemic, telehealth is gaining prominence as a critical mode of delivering medical care. This provides a unique opportunity to make sure health systems and doctors are using telehealth, where appropriate, for patients trying to access end-of-life care options. These efforts should improve access to medical aid in dying in the short and long-term," Callinan wrote in the email message.

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Accessing life-ending drugs through telehealth is not new, said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, in a March 20 blog post on the subject, noting the presence of telehealth provisions in bills in New Mexico and Hawaii.

"The death lobby focuses on facilitating death and protecting doctors who are willing to be involved with killing their patients. They are not concerned with protecting people," he opined.

This effort to promote doctor-facilitated death follows the publication of an ethics journal article contending that denying euthanasia is costly to society.

In the current edition of Clinical Ethics, an article titled "Counting the Cost of Denying Assisted Dying" by David Shaw and Alec Morton, both of whom work at the Institute for Biomedical Ethics at the University of Basel, Switzerland, argued in support of the legalization of euthanasia because, in their opinion, it would increase people's "quality-adjusted life years" by helping them end their life following an incurable disease diagnosis.

As technology advances the utilization of telehealth — a collection of means or methods for enhancing health care, public health and health education delivery and support using telecommunications which encompasses a wide variety of technologies and tactics to deliver virtual medical, health, and education services — has increased.

On Monday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai shared plans for a $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth Program to equip healthcare providers with broadband connectivity and devices to provide telehealth services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The states of Maine, Vermont, New Jersey, Washington state, Oregon, California, and Hawaii, along with the District of Columbia, have all legalized assisted suicide. Montana does not have a state law on the books but the option is legal in the state following a state Supreme Court ruling.

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