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Letter: New York should allow fatally ill to die with dignity

New York should allow fatally ill to die with dignity

A recent letter writer warned of dire consequences should New York State pass the legislation known as the Medical Aid in Dying Act. The writer seems frightened that the law could be used against the elderly or unfit or undesirable. This is deeply misinformed. For a person to access the medications used to end his/her own life, their primary physician needs to attest that the person has an incurable, irreversible condition that will likely result in death within six months. This diagnosis must be confirmed by a second doctor. The person then needs to be able to self-administer the medications.

Researchers found that in its first 10 years in Oregon, only 341 people chose to use it and only one-in-10 requests for Death with Dignity resulted in hastened death.

My younger brother Mark, who resided in Washington, a state with a Death with Dignity law, was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2012. The disease quickly robbed him of his mobility and his voice. Wheelchair-bound, he communicated by typing with his right index finger. His computer then “voiced” his comments so if he chose, he could sound like an impish 10-year–old girl or a British Parliamentarian … or the 60-year-old man he actually was.

Despite his efforts to keep joy in his life, it was a heartbreaking and inevitable process. By the spring of 2015, reliant on a feeding tube, round-the-clock care from his wife and a legion of friends and paid caregivers, unable to take a deep breath or clear his lungs of the phlegm that accumulated as his muscles atrophied, he exercised his right to experience a peaceful death.

His last typed message to me and our other brothers was “Good-bye, I love you. Good-bye, I love you.” Had he lived in New York, he would have been forced to choke to death, essentially slowly drowning on the fluids building up in his lungs.

Please visualize the difference between the compassion he was able to experience in Washington versus the torture he would’ve endured here. Please call or write your legislators and tell them to pass this legislation.

All the cherished Marks in our lives deserve no less.

Kristin Chambers


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