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Letter: Assisted suicide column contains disputable points

Several claims about assisted suicide that were made in an opinion piece published Nov. 21 were dangerous and inaccurate. The author of the piece, who belongs to a national organization pushing for the legalization of assisted suicide across the United States, claimed the practice was safe for everybody and negatively impacts no one.

But New Yorkers should consider what happened to Barbara Wagner of Oregon, who was denied coverage by the state-run health care system for the chemotherapy treatment that she needed and wanted and was instead offered coverage for assisted suicide drugs. The very same thing happened to Oregon’s Randy Stroup as well as to patients of Dr. Brian Callister. And recently the National Council on Disability produced a federal study finding assisted suicide laws “rife with dangers to people with disabilities.”

The author’s claim that New York needs to legalize assisted suicide to relieve unbearable pain doesn’t align with the data either. We know from Oregon, where assisted suicide has been legal the longest, that unbearable pain doesn’t even make it into the top five reasons patients seek out a premature death. In fact, the top five reasons are all disability-related concerns.

New York ranks 47th in the nation when it comes to hospice utilization and we have the second to lowest number of providers to beneficiaries. Lawmakers should focus on improving real care at the end of life and reject this dangerous proposal to legalize assisted suicide.

Kristen Hanson

Community Relations Advocate
for the Patients Rights Action Fund

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