Monday, April 3, 2017

Alaska Assisted Suicide bill HB 54 - Bad Things Happen in the Dark

This article was originally published on April 2, 2017 on the Choice is an Illusion website.

Margaret Dore
By Margaret K. Dore, Esq., for a pdf version, click here.

HB 54 legalizes physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia as those terms are traditionally defined. The bill is based on a similar law in Oregon, which has a near complete lack of transparency.


If Alaska enacts HB 54 and follows Oregon practice, there will be a similar lack of transparency. The safety and welfare of individual patients will be unverifiable from Alaska State sources.

DISCUSSION

A. If Alaska Follows Oregon’s Interpretation of “Not a Public Record,” the Department of Health & Social Services will be insulated from review, even by law enforcement.

HB 54 charges the Department of Health and Social Services with issuing an annual statistical report based on data collected pursuant to the bill.[1] The bill also states:

The information collected is not a public record under AS 40.25.110, and the department may not make the information available for inspection by the public. (Emphasis added).[2]
Oregon’s law has a similar provision, as follows:
Except as otherwise required by law, the information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public. (Emphasis added).[3]
In Oregon, this similar provision is interpreted to bar release of information about individual cases, to everyone, including law enforcement. Oregon’s website states:
[T]he Act specifically states that information collected is not a public record and is not available for inspection by the public (ORS 127.865 (2)). The protection of confidentiality conferred by the Death with Dignity Act precludes the Oregon Health Authority [which oversees Oregon’s Department of Health] from releasing information that identifies patients or participants, to the public, media, researchers, students, advocates, or other interested parties....[4]
Consider also this e-mail from Alicia Parkman, Mortality Research Analyst for the Oregon Health Authority, which states:
We have been contacted by law enforcement . . . in the past, but have not provided identifying information of any type. (Emphasis added).[5]
If Alaska enacts HB 54 and follows Oregon’s interpretation of “not a public record,” there will be a similar lack of transparency in which even law enforcement will have no access to information about individual cases. The bill will create a government entity above the law.

B. If Alaska follows Oregon’s data collection protocol, patient identities will not be recorded in any manner, source documentation will be destroyed


Oregon’s website describes the data collection protocol for its annual reports, as follows:

The identity of participating physicians is coded, but the identity of individual patients is not recorded in any manner. Approximately one year from the publication of the Annual Report, all source documentation is destroyed. (Emphasis added).[6]
Alicia Parkman, Mortality Research Analyst for the Oregon Health Authority, makes a similar representation as follows:
To ensure confidentiality, our office does not maintain source information on participants. (Emphasis added).[7]
The significance is that Oregon’s annual reports are unverifiable. If Alaska, based on its similar statutory language, follows Oregon, Alaska’s annual reports will also be unverifiable.

C. If Alaska follows Oregon, Compassion & Choices, a non-governmental entity, will displace the department of health and social services to become the defacto “agency” overseeing HB 54

Passage of HB 54 is being spearheaded by the suicide promotion group, Compassion & Choices. In Oregon, this organization has used the Oregon law to disable and largely displace the Department of Health as the entity overseeing Oregon’s law. See below.

1. In Oregon, the police officer assigned to the case was not able to get information from the State; the decedent’s death certificate was falsified; the officer obtained information from Compassion & Choices
In 2010, I had client who wanted to know if his father had died under Oregon’s law. I referred him to an Oregon attorney, Isaac Jackson, who asked the police to investigate. Jackson’s subsequent declaration states:
2. I write to inform the court regarding a lack of transparency under Oregon’s assisted suicide act. Even law enforcement is denied access to information collected by the State of Oregon. Moreover, according to the current Oregon State website, this lack of access is official Oregon State Policy. 
3. In 2010, I was retained by a client whose father had apparently died under Oregon’s law. The client wanted to know whether that was true. I therefore made inquiry on his behalf. However and unlike other deaths I have investigated, it was difficult to get information. . . . 
6. I . . . received a copy of the decedent’s death certificate, which is the official death record in Oregon. A true and correct, but redacted copy, is attached hereto . . . . The “immediate cause of death” is listed as “cancer.” The “manner of death” is listed as “Natural.” 
7. Per my request, a police officer was assigned to the case. Per the officer’s confidential report, he did not interview my client, but he did interview people who had witnessed the decedent’s death. 
8. The officer’s report describes how he determined that the [father’s] death was under Oregon’s assisted suicide law due to records other than from the State of Oregon. The officer’s report also describes that he was unable to get this information from the Oregon Health Authority, which was not willing to confirm or deny whether the deceased had used the act . . . . (Emphasis added).[]
I also read the officer’s report. According to the report, Compassion & Choices provided the records necessary for the officer to determine that the decedent had, in fact, died under Oregon’s law. In Oregon, Compassion & Choices, a non-governmental entity, has displaced the Department of Health as the agency overseeing Oregon’s law.
2. In Oregon, Compassion & Choices is like “the fox in the proverbial chicken coop” reporting to the farmer what’s happening in the coop
In 2008, the Editorial Board for The Oregonian, which is Oregon’s largest newspaper, urged Washington State voters to reject its then pending assisted suicide measure. The Editorial Board stated:
Oregon’s physician-assisted suicide program has not been sufficiently transparent. Essentially, a coterie of insiders run the program, with a handful of doctors and others deciding what the public may know. (Emphasis added).[11]
Four days later, Oregon doctors, Kenneth Stevens and William Toffler, published a follow up article, stating:
The group promoting assisted suicide, so-called "Compassion and Choices (C&C)", are like the fox in the proverbial chicken coop; in this case the fox is reporting its version to the farmer regarding what is happening in the coop. . . .  
In 2006, C&C's attorneys intimidated the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to change to euphemisms in referring to Oregon's assisted suicide law. The limited DHS reports of assisted suicides is another indication of this organization's influence. Information that is damaging to the "good public image" of Oregon's assisted suicide law is hidden or glossed-over in the DHS reports. . . . [12]
Conclusion

The proposed Oregon-style “oversight” is a sham and will create the opportunity for a non-governmental entity to displace a government agency. The safety and welfare of individuals will be unverifiable from state sources. 


I urge you to vote “No” on HB 54.

Footnotes:

[1] HB 54, Sponsor Substitute Version, Section 3, § 13.55.210.
[2] Id., § 13.55.210 (c).
[3] ORS 127.865 s.3.11(2) .
[4] Oregon Data Release Policy, copy attached in this link at page A-62.
[5] E-mail from Alicia Parkman to me, 01/04/12, copy attached in this link at page A-63.
[6] Oregon Health Authority, Frequently Asked Questions, copy attached in this link at page A-67. a
[7] Supra at note 5.
[8] Compassion & Choices is a successor organization to the Hemlock Society, originally founded by suicide promoter, Derek Humphry. See newsletter attached in this link at page A-73
[9] Isaac Jackson, Declaration of Testimony, 09/18/12, attached in this link at pages A-57 to A-58
[10] The Oregonian Editorial Board, “Washington state's assisted-suicide measure: Don't go there,” The Oregonian, September 20, 2012,
[11] Id.
[12] Kenneth Stevens MD and William Toffler MD, “Assisted suicide: Conspiracy and control,” The Oregonian, September 24, 2008.

Respectfully submitted this 31ST day of March 2017

Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA
Law Offices of Margaret K. Dore, P.S.
Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation
www.margaretdore.com
www.choiceillusion.org
1001 4th Avenue, Suite 4400
Seattle, WA 98154
206 697 1217

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