Carolyn McMurray | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Carolyn McMurray 
Member since Jan 28, 2015


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Re: “In Farewell, Shumlin Reveals His Father Used End-of-Life Law

End of life choice is a good thing. The problem with legal assisted suicide is that it destroys real choice, which originates and ends with the individual concerned. Legal assisted suicide spreads the decision making out to others. Doctors decide who can and who cannot get a lethal prescription, so they are the ones with real choice. The so-called "safeguards" protect the doctors. If they were intended to protect the patient, they would extend to the period after the prescription is written and the filled. Although we are told that people want the drugs for "peace of mind" and that many choose not to use them, we will never know who among those who have taken them did so freely or as a result of pressure or of coercion. Pressure can be very subtle, perhaps inadvertent, but it is pressure nevertheless. If one of my adult children, like Shumlin, told a story (in 2011)about how he had tried to get me to have "the conversation" and laughed with a crowd about asking me, at age 87, what I would be doing in 10 years, I would interpret that as his thinking my life was or would become a burden to myself or to him, and I would consider that pressure. As for coercion, without a requirement for disinterested witnesses at the time of a person takes the lethal dose, there is no way of knowing that someone did not put them in his applesauce or iv line, or even force him, struggling, to take them. Apparently, the proponents of assisted suicide are quite willing to tolerate these risks so that they can have what they want.

1 like, 2 dislikes
Posted by Carolyn McMurray on 01/07/2017 at 2:11 PM

Re: “Senate Panel Limits Debate on End-of-Life Law

I used my 300 word allowance in the comment above, so I have to comment again to congratulate Terri Hallenbeck on an excellent, well-written, and, most importantly, balanced report. Thank you!

7 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Carolyn McMurray on 02/18/2015 at 9:53 PM

Re: “Senate Panel Limits Debate on End-of-Life Law

Why is the committee refusing to consider amendments?
Why would it refuse to follow Oregon in requiring reporting on what happens after a lethal prescription is written? Vermonters should know whether the prescription was filled, whether the drugs were taken, what happened to them if they were not, how long it took for death to come after ingestion, and whether there were any complications.
Senate members who favor regulations enough to revisit the law should not object to adding more safeguards.
I would suggest a requirement for continuing competency evaluations during the period between the time a person gets the prescription and the time of death. Physical or mental deterioration caused by illness could well make someone competent to request the prescription incompetent to take the drugs six months later. Will he still be able to self administer? Will he know what he is doing?
Another safeguard would be requiring disinterested witnesses at the time of ingestion. Under the current law, we cannot know whether a person took the drugs freely, was pressured or coerced, given them without his knowledge, or was forced to take them. This law enables abuse of elderly and disabled people.
The committee should set up a process to track general suicide rates and compare them with trends in assisted suicide.
Finally, it needs to prohibit families and the media from reporting assisted suicides in a romanticized way that the Vermont Suicide Prevention Platform says contributes to suicide contagion. Keep the reports factual and anonymous. We owe this to our children.
One wonders what motive the committee members have for refusing to entertain amendments that might make a bad law better.
Is this refusal a tacit acknowledgement that the subtlety of the pressures contributing to suicide makes it impossible to write a “safe” assisted suicide law?

7 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Carolyn McMurray on 02/18/2015 at 9:48 PM

Re: “Last Rights: A Putney Woman Becomes the Third Vermonter to End Her Life Using New Law

The number of assisted suicide deaths in Oregon has risen by over 500%, from 16 in the first year to 85 in 2012. C&C's Barbara Coombs Lee has already supported the extension of the "right to die" to people with dementia. Expansion is happening slowly, but inexorably.

The suicide rate in Oregon is soaring at a rate consistent with suicide contagion.

4 likes, 16 dislikes
Posted by Carolyn McMurray on 01/29/2015 at 1:34 PM

Re: “Last Rights: A Putney Woman Becomes the Third Vermonter to End Her Life Using New Law

Thanks to Terri Hallenbeck for lifting the veil over Act 39’s implementation. It is good to be reminded that the law requires doctors to report only the writing of a prescription, not what happens afterwards. We know what happened to only two prescriptions. We cannot verify Linda Waite-Simpson’s claim that there have been two other assisted suicides in Vermont. We cannot know whether there were complications, abuse, or errors. We cannot know if there are unused drugs sitting in somebody’s house waiting to be stolen or taken by a child.

While I sympathize with Lake’s family members and understand their need to find a kernel of good in her death, I find her sister’s description of her suicide as “pretty awesome” disturbing. Suicide is a public health problem. Suicide contagion is a phenomenon so well known that the World Health Organization has issued guidelines warning against the glorification or romanticizing of suicide and urging reporters to include contact information for suicide prevention agencies in articles about it. I wish Hallenbeck had eschewed calling Lake’s death “remarkable”. The fact is that there are too many suicide deaths. Suicide is not remarkable, and Lake’s publicized one will almost certainly contribute to making suicide more ordinary than it already is. In Oregon, non-assisted suicides began to increase three years after legalization of assisted suicide and have continued to rise at a rate consistent with contagion. I fear for readers of this article, some of whom will have depression or another disability, some of whom will be dealing with terminal diagnoses. Some will see suicide, assisted or not, as the solution to their problems. Some, less privileged than Lake, will see it as the only solution. Those people’s suicides will, in the words of Lynn Vitzthum, have been “socially engineered”, not freely chosen.

11 likes, 41 dislikes
Posted by Carolyn McMurray on 01/28/2015 at 4:37 PM

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