Fear-mongers distort facts on aid in dying
The May 25 Another Voice, “Evidence contradicts arguments for assisted suicide,” is replete with errors. The court case is about the right of dying patients to obtain a prescription of life-ending medications that could be taken if suffering becomes intolerable to achieve a peaceful death, properly termed “aid in dying.” Patients now have a similar right to hasten their deaths by stopping or never starting life-sustaining treatment, by terminal sedation, when pain becomes unbearable, or by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking. These options are not considered suicide.
Plaintiffs are not, as asserted, seeking to change the criminal law. They seek a ruling, in part, that the current law that bans assisting a suicide should be narrowly construed so as not to apply to the conduct of physicians who prescribe life-ending medications to dying patients. This position has wide support, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Contrary to what is implied, only a very small number of people who die in Oregon, about 1 in 300, do so by aid in dying, which has been permitted for 19 years.
There is no evidence in the U.S. that there may be a slippery slope toward euthanasia. Every law that has been passed, all proposed legislation and all court cases over the past 25 years require that the patient self-administer the medicine. The experience in other countries is simply irrelevant.
With over 30 years of experience with aid in dying in several states, there is no evidence of patients being pressured, no evidence to support the fear-mongering assertion that patients might feel they have a “duty to die.” There is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Where legal, aid in dying has worked as intended as demonstrated by numerous studies. So, there have been no serious efforts over 19 years in Oregon to change the law. Patients who choose aid in dying want to live but are, in fact dying. They should have the option of aid in dying.
David C. Leven
Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Consultant, End of Life Choices New York