Thursday, February 13, 2020

Assisted suicide goes against our values

This opinion article was published by the Concord Monitor on February 11, 2020

By Steven Wade
Executive Director of the Brain Injury Association

House Bill 1659 effectively gives physicians permission to prescribe drugs that result in patient suicide. We have serious concerns about the potential impact on New Hampshire’s at-risk population if this bill passes. It normalizes suicide as medical care and corrupts the doctor/patient relationship.

New Hampshire suicide rates are up nearly 50% over the past 10 years. New laws have been passed recently to beef up suicide prevention efforts because there are populations, including veterans, teens, people with disabilities, brain injury survivors and the elderly “pre-disposed” to suicide for reasons including depression, lack of autonomy and inability to engage in activities that make life enjoyable.

New Hampshire has a suicide crisis and has set an ambitious goal of zero suicides. This bill works against that goal. What sort of a message does it send to at-risk people if New Hampshire passes a law that says suicide is an easily achieved option?

The exploitation of the elderly is another significant problem in New Hampshire. This bill could enable exploiters to misuse the law to the detriment of those dependent on others for their care. Anyone with ulterior motives like convenience and cost will have the power to steer vulnerable members of our society – who are not necessarily dying – in the direction of death instead of care. Instead the state should be investing in greatly expanded access to palliative care and mental health services for those at-risk populations relying on the state for their care.

This bill calls into question the state’s power to set standards for quality of life. If it’s a terminal illness predicted to last six months now, what might it become in the future? Laws like this inevitably expand over time. If New Hampshire opens the door to assisted suicide, we will have to face whatever might be on the other side of that door.

HB 1659 goes against the very essence of who we are as citizens of New Hampshire. If we want to show that we value the lives of at-risk teens, the elderly, people with disabilities and veterans who have fought for our country, we should be focusing our energy on providing them with care, not with death.

(Steven Wade is the executive director of the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire in Concord and a member of the N.H. Coalition Against Assisted Suicide.)

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