16. We already allow withdrawal and withholding of treatment, and the informed consent process used for that seems to work OK. Isn’t that enough for assisted suicide?

In fact there are many problems with the system as it is

  • The use of Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders (also known as “no code” or “code zero”) often leads to problems.  Studies have shown that:
    • Medical staff often withhold other treatments besides CPR (such as dialysis, medications, tests, food and water, transfusions)
    • People with disabilities are pressured to sign DNRs, or the orders are simply put on their charts without their knowledge or consent, or that of their families.
    • Doctors sometimes give unclear or incorrect information about the medical outcome of signing or not signing a DNR.
  • When a person asks that treatment be withheld or withdrawn, hospital protocols do not call for suicide prevention services, even though withholding treatment often leads to death.
  • Doctors often wait too long to talk about end-of-life choices.  When these conversations happen, the patient may be unconscious or otherwise unable to participate.
  • Studies show that doctors sometimes make such decisions without the permission of the person or her family.
  • The problems with informed consent that arise in assisted suicide are the same for withholding and withdrawal of treatment.