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Terminally Ill Often Just Want Some Control

More than one-third of terminally ill Oregonians who obtain the medication never take it, but they get great comfort in knowing they have access to it if they need it. By Dr. David Grube, C&C National Medical Director

Regarding Emily Esfahani Smith’s review of Iddo Landau’s “Finding Meaning in an Imperfect World” (Bookshelf, Oct. 16): Contrary to the claims of psychiatrist William Breitbart and author Iddo Landau, there are multiple reasons terminally ill patients request medical aid in dying, not just one.

Oregon Public Health Division statistics show terminally ill people who have utilized our state’s Death with Dignity Act over the last 19 years cite seven different reasons for requesting aid-in-dying medication so they have the option to peacefully end unbearable suffering in their last moments of life.

During my 35-year career as a family physician before I retired in 2012, I wrote prescriptions for medical aid in dying, and I knew that the people who requested it didn’t want to end their life. They loved life but realized they had an incurable, terminal disease and didn’t want to suffer needlessly as the inevitable end of life approached.

The proof is that more than one-third of terminally ill Oregonians who obtain the medication never take it, but they get great comfort in knowing they have access to it if they need it, which helps them suffer less.