Letter: Assisted suicide bill has dangers

Published: 10/10/2018 9:27:28 PM
Modified: 10/10/2018 9:27:39 PM
Assisted suicide bill has dangers

A recent story written by supporters of H1194, which would legalize assisted suicide in Massachusetts, failed to disclose the bill’s many dangers. Opportunities for abuse are rampant in every bill to legalize assisted suicide and vulnerable people are thereby placed at risk.

The economically disadvantaged will suffer because care is costly. Take the case of an Oregon woman, Barbara Wagner, who tried to pursue a life-extending therapy prescribed by her doctor for lung cancer but her insurance company refused to cover it, offering instead to cover lethal drugs. Then there’s Stephanie Packer in California. Shortly after assisted suicide was legalized there, her insurance company denied coverage for chemotherapy but covered drugs that would end her life for a $1.20 copay. There are others too that we know of and surely many that we don’t.

And asking doctors to accurately prognosticate six months or less to live, which is required by H1194, is a virtually impossible task. JJ Hanson outlived his dire four month prognosis by several years, and many, many other cases like his show that doctors are more often wrong than they are right when predicting the future.

Unlike the picture painted by the article, twenty years of data from Oregon reveal that pain and suffering is not among the top five reasons that people choose to end their lives by assisted suicide. Instead, reasons given have to do with existential suffering and disability, which is why nearly every disability rights organization that has taken a position is opposed to legislation.

Meanwhile, medical advances allow for control of physical suffering at the end of life through multi-disciplinary palliative care — and in the rare extreme cases, sedation of the imminently dying — making this bill an unnecessary evil.

Suicide can never be medical care — let’s protect vulnerable citizens of Massachusetts and reject this dangerous public policy.

Matt Valliere, Executive Director of Patients Rights Action Fund


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