End-of-Life Choice, Palliative Care and Counseling

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Terminally ill should have choice of doctor’s aid in dying

THE BOSTON GLOBE
Letters to the Editor
August 11, 2011

THE ARTICLE “Drive begins to put assisted suicide law on ballot next year’’ (Metro, Aug. 4) uses the term “assisted suicide’’ to describe the proposed ballot measure that would permit terminally ill, mentally competent patients to obtain drugs to end their lives.

The article states that “only two states, Washington and Oregon, have legalized assisted suicide.’’ In fact, what is legal there and, by court ruling, in Montana is for physicians to prescribe life-ending medicines for terminally ill patients, who must take the medicines themselves. This distinction is important. It is not a suicide when a patient, having made a reasoned decision, hastens death by days or weeks with prescribed medicines. By controlling the timing and circumstances of their deaths, patients can prevent or end terrible suffering. Having this option gives great comfort to those who are dying, and many never take the drugs.

Typical suicides occur when people who could live choose to die, usually when depressed, in isolation, and often violently. On the other hand, terminally ill people cannot continue to live much longer. They discuss their options with physicians and usually family members and are not necessarily depressed; most receive excellent hospice care.

Physician aid in dying is a choice that all mentally competent, terminally ill people should have.

David C. Leven
Executive director
Compassion & Choices of New York
New York

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