California’s right-to-die law was rolled out this week and at least one doctor immediately opened up a dedicated assisted suicide clinic in San Francisco.
At Bay Area End of Life Options, Dr Lonny Shavelson, a well-known advocate of assisted suicide, will advise people who are wondering whether they ought to end their lives.
Dr Shavelson denies that he will be operating a drive-in suicide service. He says that he wants to work with patients to explore all the legal and therapeutic options. "When somebody says to a physician that they want to talk about the End of Life Option Act and says, 'Can you give me a prescription that will end my life?' I want them to tell me why," he told the San Jose Mercury. "A major goal of physicians is to make this (prescription) not happen."
His fees will be US$200 for an initial consultation plus $1800 if the patient is qualified and wishes to continue.
Marilyn Golden, a disability rights advocate who campaigned against the new law, is alarmed by this initiative. "It's disturbing because it suggests that if you set up a practice focused on assisted suicide, some people will get assisted suicide," she said. "How dogged are they (doctors) going to be in their pursuit of solutions that address the patient's underlying reasons for requesting death? … If they go all the way to the nth degree of assisting that person, that's terrific. But it's worrisome to see people advertising themselves for this, unless they plan on talking everybody out of it by getting them services."
On his website, Dr Shavelson describes himself as “a consultant for patients at the end of their lives who are considering physician aid-in-dying”. He is also an author and journalist. His first interest in physician aid-in-dying led to his book A Chosen Death in 1995.
Wesley J. Smith, a bioethicist and campaigner against assisted suicide, was scathing.
Despite his potential lack of medical expertise about conditions, he will be allowed to decide if a patient qualifies for death doctoring, and he could well be wrong as he can’t possibly keep up with all the changes in a particular field as do real medical specialists in those areas of practice. But that doesn’t matter. All that matters under the assisted suicide law is having the MD degree and the license allowing him to write a lethal prescription. That means the most incompetent doctors–the utter bottom feeders–can become death doctors.
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