Wednesday, February 7, 2018

"Do or Refer": Proponents Show Their True Nature

Margaret Dore, Esq., MBA
By Margaret Dore Esq., MBA

The Massachusetts bill seeking to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia as traditionally defined, includes a provision requiring doctors to "do or refer," i.e., to perform assisted suicide or euthanasia, by prescribing and/or administering the lethal dose, or to make an effective referral to another doctor, who will do it.  (H 1194 Sec. 15(4)(a) & (b)(iv)).*

The significance of do or refer is that it's anti-patient, by not allowing doctors to use their best judgment for the patient.

Think of Oregonian Jeanette Hall. In 2000, she made a settled decision to use Oregon's assisted suicide law in lieu of being treated for cancer. Her doctor, Kenneth Stevens, who personally opposed assisted suicide, thought that her chances with treatment were good. He stalled her request for assisted suicide and finally convinced her to be treated for cancer.

Yes, Dr Stevens was against assisted suicide generally, but he also thought that Jeanette was a great candidate for treatment, and indeed she was. She has been cancer free for 17 years. In a article from last year, Jeanette states

I wanted to do our law and I wanted Dr. Stevens to help me. Instead, he encouraged me to not give up and ultimately I decided to fight the cancer. I had both chemotherapy and radiation. I am so happy to be alive!
With "do or refer," Dr Stevens would have been risking his license or even his livelihood to help Jeanette understand what her true options were.

Is this what we want for doctors, to have them be afraid of giving us their best judgment, for fear of losing their jobs?

This is a particularly sensitive issue for me because it happened to me, but in another context.

When I was in law school, I went to an optometrist who knew what was wrong with my vision and also where to refer me for treatment with another optometrist. He didn't refer me because he worked for ophthalmologists and had been previously disciplined for giving a similar referral.

I spent the next six months on a wild goose chase trying to find someone to help me so that I could get back to school. I finally found an optometrist who could help me, but with the delay, I had further damaged my eyes. I graduated from law school two years late.

As for assisted suicide, the proposed bill is promoted as safe, in part because it requires a second doctor to review each case.

But what is the purpose of the second doctor, if he or she can only say "yes." (Do or refer)

With "do or refer," assisted suicide proponents show us their true nature. They don't want to give us choice, they want to railroad us to death.

I hope that Massachusetts will reject the proposed bill. (HB 1194) 


*  The bill is sold as limited to assisted suicide. In the fine print, it also allows euthanasia as traditionally defined.

Margaret Dore is an attorney in Washington State where assisted suicide is legal. She is also president of Choice is an Illusion, a nonprofit corporation opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia worldwide. See and