N. Gregory Hamilton, M.D.
Joan Lucas, a 65-year-old woman, made a suicide attempt using sleeping pills she’d hoarded. Her adult children watched her as she lay on her bed throughout the day. They couldn’t make up their minds what to do, according to the Medford Mail Tribune (June 25 and 26, 2000).
When Joan eventually awakened, instead of getting evaluation and treatment for her suicidal despair, her family called George Eighmey, executive director of Oregon’s Compassion in Dying Federation, a politically active assistedsuicide group. Mr. Eighmey helped arrange Joan’s assisted suicide in Oregon, where such a practice was legal at the time.
The doctor wouldn’t reveal his name but told a news reporter he decided to get a mental health opinion, which is not required in Oregon, to cover himself. The psychologist he hand picked sent an MMPI to the patient, because Joan could not easily come into the office. Joan’s family helped her fill out the paperand-pencil test. Then, the psychologist cleared her for a second, more effective overdose. This one killed her.
Never before had families, friends, doctors, and mental health professionals had to struggle with such a dilemma—whether to evaluate and treat a desperate person or offer her legalized assisted suicide. Now, the struggle for assisted suicide continues—with profound implications for the health and safety of mentally ill individuals, as well as the physically ill, their families, and those who care for them. That’s why Protecting Psychiatric Patients and Others from the Assisted-Suicide Movement is so important. This book is the first comprehensive