New Hampshire assisted suicide bill introduced

Protection of conscience provision biased against objectors

Sean Murphy*

New Hampshire House Bill 1659 would legalize assisted suicide. Parts of the bill relevant to protection of conscience are reproduced on the Project website.

The bill permits physician assisted suicide for New Hampshire residents 18 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to cause death within six months. Candidates who are capable of making and  communicating health care decisions must apply in writing for a lethal prescription (137-M:3); the application must be witnessed by two independent witnesses (137-M:4).  The candidate must apply personally; substitute medical decision makers cannot apply on behalf of a patient (137-M:3.III).

The bill imposes a number of obligations on physicians primarily responsible for treating a patient’s terminal illness (137-M:5) and upon physicians consulted by them about the illness (137-M:6).  These would be unacceptable to physicians who refuse to participate in assisted suicide for reasons of conscience.

Section 137-M:14 (Immunities) is the provision that is intended to protect objecting health care providers, which includes individuals and health care facilities.  The protection offered is biased in favour of those willing to participate in assisted suicide and insufficient to protect those unwilling to do so.  Specifically:

  • 139-M:14.I limits protection against civil, criminal and professional liability to persons willing to participate in assisted suicide; no protection is provided for those who refuse. It also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against employees who participate in assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M:14.II protects both participants and non-participants equally, but also prevents objecting institutional health care providers from taking action against individuals who ignore prohibitions against assisted suicide on their premises.
  • 139-M14.III protects those providing assisted suicide drugs against negligence complaints, but does not similarly protect those who refuse to provide assisted suicide drugs.
  • 139-M14.IV declares that no health care provider is under a duty to participate in assisted suicide.  However, the provision is ambiguous because it is inconsistent with the lack of protection noted in 139-M4.I and III. 

New Hampshire protection of conscience bill fails to pass

Right on vote, wrong on reason

Seacoastonline (Letter)

Tracy Emerick

My appreciation to Mr. Desrosiers’s May 12, 2015, letter to the editor about my vote on HB 670 titled, “Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act.” The bill came out of committee as ITL (Inexpedient To Legislate) so my “no” vote was in fact supporting the bill against the negative report from the committee. Mr. Desrosiers is also correct that my position is that no one should be forced to violate their conscience defined in the bill: “Conscience” means the religious, moral, or ethical principles held by a health care provider, a health care institution, or a health care payer. Mr. Desrosiers also correctly stated that the primary issues being addressed, but not by name, are abortion and fetal stem cell procedures. . . [Full text]


Commentator criticizes broad wording of New Hampshire bill

Wesley J. Smith has critized the wording of New Hampshire bill HB1653 because it  “obliterates the fiduciary nature of the doctor’s role by allowing medical professionals to abandon patients for virtually any reason.”  He urges that the bill be revised.[Second Hand Smoke]  New Hampshire currently has no protection of conscience legislation.