Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Assisted Suicide: What can seem like dignity can turn out to be anything but

This letter was published by the Minneapolis Star Tribune on October 7, 2019.

John Kelly
I sympathize with Bobbi Jacobsen (“I have ALS, and I hope for a dignified death,” Opinion Exchange, Sept. 24). Like her, I became severely disabled as an adult. But I oppose assisted suicide: It’s too dangerous.

Assisted suicide can look appealing from an individual’s perspective, but at the state level, it inevitably leads to the premature deaths of non-dying people. At least 12% to 15% of people judged terminal outlive their six-month prognosis, according to the Journal of Palliative Medicine, sometimes by years and decades. Actress Valerie Harper, who died last month, lived six years longer than predicted. Tragically, there are people who would be alive today but for their misplaced trust in a doctor’s prediction.

Jacobsen cites the absence of disability abuse reports from state protection and advocacy agencies, but abuse gets easily buried. For example, Oregonian Wendy Melcher’s death in 2007 at the hands of two nurses was suppressed by the state nursing board.

Elder abuse is rampant. Safeguards end after drugs get dispensed and, because no witness is required, heirs and abusers can engineer deaths without worry.

As the cheapest “treatment” for serious illness, assisted suicide fattens insurers’ profits and crowds out traditional, more expensive treatment.

Palliative care doctors know how to let people die gently, so it’s inexcusable that anyone die in uncontrolled pain. Everyone has the right to reject any treatment, including food and water, and palliative sedation is available as a last resort.

The Minnesota Legislature should demand excellent palliative care, not put everyone in danger of premature death due to mistakes, abuse and insurers’ bottom lines.

John B. Kelly, Boston

The writer works for Not Dead Yet, an organization opposed to assisted suicide.


SB from Friends For Life Alliance said...

When palliative care gently sedates you and takes away food and water, it is hastening death.

Mike Balaski said...

My mother and other relatives were not gently sedated. They were starved and dehydrated until they died. Apparently, gentle sedatives were too expensive, especially in Ontario.

The Four Last Things of Death, Judgement, Heaven, Hell await the executioners. May God have mercy on their souls.