WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today examined the societal impact of doctor-assisted suicide in a hearing of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.
“States should understand the unintended consequences and slippery slope of doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia,”said Brownback. “Legalizing doctor-assisted suicide can lead toward involuntary euthanasia, as we’ve seen in the Netherlands. If the law permits doctor-assisted suicide it could actually create a financial incentive for insurance companies to encourage prematurely ending the lives of those in need of long-term care. When the law permits killing as a medical ‘treatment,’ society’s moral guidelines are blurred, and the experience in the Netherlands gives us reason to believe that killing could gain acceptance as a solution for the chronically ill or vulnerable.”
In the 1997 case of Washington v. Glucksberg, the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to Washington state’s ban on physician-assisted suicide, ruling decisively that the practice was not a fundamental liberty interest protected by the Constitution. Brownback continued, “Legalizing assisted suicide could overlook the patient’s need for psychological help. Often a terminally ill patient needs the reassurance that his or her life has value and is worth living.”
The Committee heard from Jonathan Imbody of the Christian Medical Association, who described the effects of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands. Imbody related personal stories from his visit to the Netherlands where he spoke with patients who describe a fear of checking into a hospital only to be involuntarily euthanized.
The Committee also heard from Rita Marker of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Marker described the legal implications of changing the Controlled Substances Act to prohibit prescribing federally-controlled substances for the purpose of doctor-assisted suicide.
Brownback chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights.