Letter: Terminally ill people who request medical aid in dying are not suicidal

In regards to the commentary, The Dangers of Allowing Assisted Suicide:

I appreciate Kristen Hanson’s dedication to her husband’s legacy, but I must rebut her erroneous claims about medical aid in dying. Terminally ill people who request medical aid in dying are not suicidal. They would do anything to live, but their disease is killing them, and they want the option to peacefully end their suffering only if it becomes unbearable. Just having aid-in-dying medication brings them tremendous peace of mind in their final days. Equating medical aid in dying with suicide is deeply offensive to the individuals who utilize this option and their families.

There are proven and effective safeguards built into medical aid-in-dying laws, including requiring two doctors to confirm the terminally ill person is mentally capable of making their own healthcare decision, and two witnesses to verify the person is making the request voluntarily. In fact, there is not a single substantiated case of abuse or coercion nor any civil or criminal charges filed related to the practice in 40 years of experience in the eight authorized jurisdictions.


In addition, a Journal of Medical Ethics report concluded: “Rates of assisted dying in Oregon … showed no evidence of heightened risk for the elderly, women, the uninsured … people with low educational status, the poor, the physically disabled or chronically ill, minors, people with psychiatric illnesses including depression, or racial or ethnic minorities, compared with background populations.”

Finally, a New England Journal of Medicine report concluded insurers have no financial incentive to pressure patients to accelerate their deaths because there are no substantial cost savings. The reason is the vast majority of people who utilize medical aid in dying already have decided to forego fruitless curative treatment and are enrolled in relatively inexpensive hospice care.

I urge our lawmakers to heed the words of Governor Cuomo last week: “I say pass the bill.”

Stacey Gibson