State’s assisted suicide bill imperils elder citizens


In 20 years of working with geriatric patients, I have seen the frightened faces, emaciated and bruised bodies, and the hopelessness of abuse victims. My patients taught me the five types of elder abuse: neglect, financial exploitation, emotional abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse. New York state legislators could create a new category: legally protected abuse.

If it ever becomes law, assisted suicide legislation will increase opportunities for abusers to euthanize adults. This act intentionally puts lethal drugs into the hands of people who could easily misuse them.

Like child abuse, spousal abuse and hate crimes, elder abuse occurs when a class of people does not get equal protection, equal treatment and social supports to prevent harm. New York may create a class of people who receive lethal medication and suicide instructions instead of suicide prevention interventions and social support to prevent harm. In states with similar laws, the vast majority of people dying from lethal prescriptions are older than 60.

The National Council on Aging reports that almost 60 percent of elder abusers are family members. The New York assisted suicide bill does not require physicians to see patients alone to reduce coercion by family or caregivers. In the era of telemedicine, this bill does not even mandate an in-person appointment to request the lethal medication. Thus, there is no guarantee the patient is not being coerced, or that the patient is even the one requesting to end his or her life…

New York does not prevent, protect, or prosecute elder abuse, even when people suffer severe psychological and physical harm. “Under the Radar,” the first statewide study of Elder Abuse, reports that elder abuse happens to 76 of every 1,000 adults older than 60 living in the community. That’s 260,000 New Yorkers every year. Since New York is the only state without mandatory reporting of elder abuse, it’s no surprise that less than 5 percent of these events are reported to any agency…

Read more at the Times Union…

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