The discussion surrounding California’s stance on assisted suicide should include concerns over elder abuse. When supporters of assisted suicide paint a picture of the benefits of having freedom to make end-of-life choices, they surely describe people in charge of their mental faculties, taking control of their lives, and deaths, to maintain dignity and ease pain. They likely do not consider the potential for harm when older people are abused, manipulated, mistreated and badgered into making a decision for someone else’s benefit.
Elder abuse is a massive and growing problem. Many older people in California are subjected to physical abuse, neglect, financial fraud and abandonment every day. While a person will almost certainly have to be competent for assisted suicide to be an option, many health conditions produce periods of confusion amid periods of lucidity. These health conditions make people particularly vulnerable to others, as their complaints of abuse are likely to be dismissed as dementia.
Everyone should be encouraged to watch out for signs of neglect or abuse of the elderly. If you suspect a friend or relative is being abused, defrauded, neglected or otherwise mistreated, you should feel free to speak up. If you witness physical abuse or have reason to believe it has occurred, call the police immediately. Abuse tends to get more severe the longer it goes on. If it is not reported quickly, it may well escalate.
Any situation that may involve elder abuse should be scrutinized carefully. While the elderly are not the only people who may avail themselves of assisted suicide, if legalized, they are the most likely to be pushed into it in an abusive situation.
Source: The Modesto Bee, “Ann Freeman: California’s bill has no safeguards against elder abuse or for those who change their minds,” by Ann Cupolo Freeman, 31 January 2015