Letters to the Editor: Dying with Dignity

I read with interest two recent letters to the editor promoting dignity in assisted suicide. I believe the authors are well-intentioned, yet I strongly disagree that this promotes dignity. Death is a part of nature; extinguishing innocent life is not. 

The most common reason for selecting assisted suicide is pain control or discomfort. Medical practice today provides for very good pain control. Specialists in pain medicine and hospice are excellent at mitigating pain.

There is a wealth of experience in northern European countries which has demonstrated that many of the original safeguards, when put to the test, eventually melt away, leaving a system where two physicians are not required for evaluation, the patient needs not be competent,

next-of-kin or powers of attorney may decide – and this process may be applied for depression, even in children younger than 14. Having third parties withdraw care for futile cases, consistent with patients’ wishes, is different and acceptable. 

Other consequences of assisted suicide that have arisen worldwide are as follows:

–Patients may feel they are not contributors to society, are a burden to society and family, and feel guilted into accepting suicide.

–Physicians, nurses and hospitals would be compelled to participate if this became law. There would be no conscience- rights protection or religious exemptions. 

–Blaming healthcare costs, the government may be reluctant to assist the infirm die natural deaths as has been the norm for millennia. 

–Insurance companies may deny services to people in need and not pay for usual services but pay instead for assisted suicide, as has occurred in Oregon.

In my career, I have witnessed many families and caregivers yield tender love as they assist their loved ones in dying naturally. Often, they state that this offered necessary closure.

Human nature is consistent; people abhor death. However, if laws are passed and if convenient, some will gladly get on board. What has happened in Europe could easily occur here. 

Helping people to die naturally, without distress, should be the goal of everyone in our society. 

Robert McDonald

Egg Harbor, Wisconsin