Tennessee Right to Life Testifies Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Proposed bill would radically change protections and safeguards for end of life care.

NASHVILLE, JUNE 9, 2015 - At today's meeting of the state Senate Health Committee, Tennessee Right to Life joined other advocacy groups to oppose a bill seeking to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Tennessee.  The committee met in a special study session to hear testimony regarding the proposed legislation.

In its mission statement, the state's oldest and largest pro-life organization seeks to ensure legal and social protections for Tennessee's most vulnerable citizens, including the unborn, disabled, sick and elderly.  However, Senate Bill 1362 by Sen. Reginald Tate (D-Memphis) and House Bill 1040 by Rep. Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley) would radically change Tennessee's policies and protections for end-of-life care. 

During testimony, speakers outlined concerns with the bill's wording, especially the use of broad and potentially and ambiguous terms such as "terminal condition from which there is not reasonable expectation for recovery."  Attorney and TRL Legislative Liaison Will Brewer  presented the organization's objections to the bill, pointing out that as written, the bill allows the prescribing of life-ending drugs immediately upon a "terminal" diagnosis without any opportunity for serious consideration of possible treatments, therapies or care.

Concerns include the proposed bill's sanctioning of the following:

  • A doctor prescribing a massive overdose of drugs for a person 18 years of age or older to end his or her life; 
  • Patients requesting and receiving doctor-prescribed suicide immediately upon diagnosis with a "terminal condition" even if such condition might otherwise allow a person to live for many years;
  • Family members, health care providers and others potentially advising, suggesting, or coercing vulnerable individuals to request physician-assisted suicide;
  • Healthcare providers being forced to participate in assisted suicides despite moral or religious objections;
  • Government bureaucrats and profit-driven health insurance programs cutting costs by denying payment for treatment that patients need and want, while approving payment for less costly assisted-suicide deaths.

Brian Harris, president of Tennessee Right to Life expressed concern of the proposed legislation. "If doctor-prescribed suicide is legalized in Tennessee, it could become the only 'medical treatment' to which many people have equal access.  If the government or insurance companies decide they no longer wish to pay for legitimate care and medical treatments, there will be a pressure upon the elderly, ill and disabled to end their lives. Being coerced into ending their lives does not offer death with dignity, it only offers a frightening and dangerous future for elderly and ill Tennesseans."

"The focus should be on improving access to care and pain-control, not on ending the lives of vulnerable Tennesseans," Harris concluded.

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