Doctor-assisted suicide poses very real risks


August 16, 2014 at 5:54 AM

We write in response to The Times’ editorial “Death with dignity for the terminally ill proposal includes critical safeguards” (Aug. 10).

The assisted suicide bill, Death with Dignity for the Terminally Ill Act (A2270), has not been passed because of dangers it poses, brought to public attention by an alliance of disability rights advocates, medical professionals and palliative care and hospice specialists.

Assisted suicide is structured in a way that presents very real risks of abuse by greedy heirs and caregivers. We don’t all live in “Leave-it-to-Beaver” households. Who would know if an elderly person is pressured into suicide?

People who experience depression are not protected. Michael Freeland in Oregon, for example, had a 40-year documented history of mental illness, but received a prescription for a lethal dose from a doctor.

Assisted suicide drugs cost only a few hundred dollars, making it the cheapest “treatment” for insurers. Oregon Medicaid refused to cover cancer treatment drugs for Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, but offered to pay for their assisted suicides.

Finally, the argument that assisted suicide is needed in order to avoid a painful death is false. Pain medication that eliminates end-of-life suffering is perfectly legal and recognized as the standard of care.

Wise legislators on both sides of the aisle rejected assisted suicide bills in progressive states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire so far this year. We can kill suffering without killing patients.

-- Diane Coleman,
New York, N.Y.
The writer is president and CEO of Not Dead Yet.
Anne L. H. Studholme, Esq.,
The writer is a patients’ rights attorney.
Pat Brannigan,
The writer is executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference.
Matthew Y. Suh, M.D., MPH,
The writer is a hepatobiliary and pancreas surgeon.
Scott Elliott,
The writer is executive director for the Progressive Center for Independent Living.
The writers write on behalf of many others who are also members of the New Jersey Alliance Against Doctor Prescribed Suicide.