Friday, February 17, 2017

Proposed Act Applies to People with Years or Decades to Live

By Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA

William Toffler, MD

The proposed act in SB 1129 SD1 applies to persons with a “terminal disease,” meaning those predicted to have less than six months to live.[1]  Such persons may actually have years or decades to live. This is true for three reasons:

A. Treatment Can Lead to Recovery

In 2000, Oregonian Jeanette Hall was given a terminal diagnosis of six months to a year to live, which was based on her not being treated for cancer.[2] Hall made a settled decision to use Oregon’s law, but her doctor convinced her to be treated instead.  In a 2016 declaration, she states:
This July, it will be 16 years since my diagnosis.  If [my doctor] had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead.[3]
B. Predictions of Life Expectancy Can Be Wrong

Patients may also have years to live due to misdiagnosis and because predicting life expectancy is not an exact science.[4] Consider John Norton, diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) at age 18 or 19. [5] He was told that he would get progressively worse (be paralyzed) and die in three to five years.[6] Instead, the disease progression stopped on its own.[7] In a 2012 affidavit, at age 74, he states:
If assisted suicide or euthanasia had been available to me in the 1950's, I would have missed the bulk of my life and my life yet to come.[8]
C. If Hawaii Follows Oregon's Interpretation of "Terminal Disease," Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Will Be Allowed for Chronic Conditions Such as Insulin Dependant Diabetes

The proposed act defines “terminal disease,” as follows:
“Terminal disease” means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months.[9]
Oregon’s law has an identical definition, as follows:
“Terminal disease” means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months.[10]
In Oregon, this identical definition is interpreted to include chronic conditions such as “chronic lower respiratory disease” and “diabetes mellitus” (better known as diabetes).[11] Oregon doctor, William Toffler, explains:
In Oregon, people with chronic conditions are “terminal,” if without their medications, they have less than six months [to] live. (Emphasis added).[12]
Dr. Toffler elaborates:
This is significant when you consider that a typical insulin-dependent 20 year-old-year will live less than a month without insulin.
Such persons, with insulin, are likely to have decades to live; in fact, most diabetics have a normal life span given appropriate control of their blood sugar. (Emphasis and spacing changed).[13]
If the act is not rejected and Hawaii follows Oregon’s interpretation of “terminal disease,” assisted suicide and euthanasia will be allowed for people with chronic conditions such as insulin dependent diabetes. As noted by Dr. Toffler, such persons can have “decades to live.”[14]


[1]  SB 1129 SD1, SECTION 2, § -1
[2]  Affidavit of Kenneth R. Stevens, JR., MD, ¶¶ 3-7, attached here at A-33 to A-39.
[3]  Declaration of Jeanette Hall, ¶ 4, attached  here at A-40.
[4]  See e.g., Jessica Firger, “12 million Americans misdiagnosed each year, CBS NEWS, 4/17/14 (attached at here A-41); and Nina Shapiro (attached here at A-18 to A-20).
[5]  Affidavit of John Norton, August 15, 2012, attached here at A-42 to A-44c, ¶3.
[6]  Id., ¶1.
[7]  Id., ¶4.
[8]  Id., ¶5.
[9]  SB 1129 SD1, at SECTION 2, § -1
[10]  Or. Rev. Stat. 127.800 s.1.01(12), attached here at A-47.
[11]  These conditions are listed in Oregon State reports concerning its law.  See, for example, report excerpts attached here at A-53 & A-54.
[12]  Declaration of William Toffler, MD,¶ 4, attached here at A-45 to A-46.
[13]  Id. at A-46.
[14]  Id.