This week, William Melchert-Dinkel, a former nurse from Faribault, Minnesota,
was found guilty of assisting the suicide of a British man and a Canadian woman.
He was convicted on two counts of instructing and coaxing these young people and
others in Internet suicide chat rooms to kill themselves.
Compassion & Choices’ advocacy for end-of-life choice does not condone assisted
suicide, and it never has. When we drafted the Oregon Death with Dignity Act in
1994, we were careful to preserve and maintain the felony of assisting a suicide.
That law protects Oregonians with poor mental health and disordered thinking
from anyone who would encourage and facilitate their attempts to harm
themselves. Laws against assisted suicide are good laws that should stay on the
books in every state where they appear.
Doctors who acknowledge their patients’ imminent death and accede to their
thoughtful request are providing aid in dying, not assisted suicide. The contrast
between aid in dying, in which a knowledgeable, merciful physician gives his
elderly, dying patient the means to halt end-of-life suffering — and assisted
suicide, in which a malicious predator seeks out and victimizes physically healthy,
mentally ill teens — could not be more clear.
Suicide is the self-destructive impulse of a person who has every reason and ability
to live. Aid in dying is the self-affirming decision of a person who cannot choose
to live, and can only choose the manner of an imminent death. The two situations
are so different, it is impossible to use the same phrase to name them. Indeed, the
crime is assisted suicide. The kindness is aid in dying.
For more information please visit www.compassionandchoices.org