When telemedicine can be dangerous — even deadly

The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to adapt the way we access health care, and telehealth is now widely used to overcome many hurdles related to receiving in-person attention. But there are some contexts in which relying on telemedicine can be dangerous — even deadly. Telemedicine should never be used in the context of assisted suicide because it increases the dangers of a practice already ripe for abuse.

The American Clinicians Academy on Medical Aid in Dying recently put out guidelines (acamaid.org) for doctors to prescribe lethal drugs remotely. Their reckless recommendations include establishing the diagnosis, prognosis and decision-making capacity of patients to “legally establish the patient’s first verbal request and the start of the waiting period.” Following the waiting period, the required second verbal request for assisted suicide can be made “by telephone without visual contact.”

Eligibility for assisted suicide depends upon a six-month or less prognosis and the patient’s mental competence. Would you trust a doctor you have never met in person if they told you you had less than six months to live without getting a second opinion? Is one telehealth appointment enough to accurately diagnose depression or determine mental competence? Proponents of assisted suicide say yes. But the expansion of telehealth sheds light on how the so-called safeguards of assisted suicide can be easily circumvented.

One example is “doctor shopping.” A patient or caregiver who engages in doctor shopping is not interested in professional medical advice but obtaining a predetermined prognosis or prescription. The goal with doctor shopping in the context of assisted suicide is to achieve death regardless of the circumstances that would legally prevent it.

With telemedicine, finding an unscrupulous doctor who will prescribe lethal drugs no longer depends upon geography. A virtual visit suffices. Nothing prevents clinically depressed or suicidal patients from doctor shopping until they find someone willing to prescribe them death rather than the mental health care and suicide prevention they need.

Read more at the Washington Times…

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