End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

Terminally ill need choices, compassionby Sonja

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New Haven Register
Letter to the Editor
Barbara Coombs-Lee

The editorial May 28, points out that the tragic deaths of the Vanacores in North Haven β€œare the exception.”

Thankfully, that is true, yet we should not be satisfied with the status quo. Gun deaths among the terminally ill are not unheard of in Connecticut. Across the country, on average, an elderly person dies by suicide every two hours, most of them with a gun.

Those violent, tragic deaths devastate families, and they can be prevented.

The counselors at Compassion & Choices get calls from many people who feel that ending their lives is their only solution.

We do not offer a one-size-fits-all prescription: some people need help finding resources to help them make it through, others want only a sympathetic listener.

Our services are provided without charge in the context of a relationship, and we welcome anyone who seeks them at www.compassionandchoices.org.

We also speak to people with terminal illnesses who want to meet death on their own terms and avoid prolonged, needless suffering.

They need not resort to violent means when they have the legal ability to plan a peaceful, intended death.

The availability of legal physician aid in dying provides a nonviolent alternative for the few who request it, and great comfort to others in knowing the option exists.

A mentally competent patient, wishing to live but knowing they are terminally ill, who asks their doctor for a prescription they can self-administer to achieve a peaceful ending, does not seek death, only a measure of control over their last days.

We hope the court, in Blick v. Connecticut, will recognize that is not suicide, and clarify that doctors who respond to such a request are not assisting a suicide.

The existence β€” the possibility β€” of that choice could be the difference in those exceptional, but tragic deaths.

Barbara Coombs Lee
Portland, Ore.