Rochester, NY: “Don’t buy into ‘aid in dying’” Guest Column by NDY’s Stephen Drake

Rochester, NY is my hometown. I was born here and lived here until I was 25. After that, I lived on-and-off in Syracuse and Rochester. In 1997, I moved to Chicago and moved back to Rochester in 2008. I plan to spend the rest of my life here.

I submitted an op-ed (guest essay) last week, spurred by the publication of a pro-assisted suicide op-ed written by the Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York (he called it “aid in dying). Ironically, on the opposite page was an essay about preventing teen suicides. Apparently that didn’t translate as irony with the editor(s) of the opinion page.

Today, Saturday, October 31, my op-ed was published in the Opinion section of the Democrat and Chronicle. The editors were more than fair (they published it, after all), asking for documentation of some of the assertions in the essay and making a few small edits that didn’t affect the substance of the op-ed.

Below is a link to the essay. I’ve also excerpted the first paragraph. I would appreciate it if folks would go to the newspaper site to read the whole article – newspapers do take note of the number of hits each article gets. Feel free to submit comments, of course.

Don’t buy into ‘aid in dying’

Recently, you’re hearing and reading a lot about “aid in dying” — a relatively new term that is increasingly used in place of “assisted suicide.” You’re also being told that the issues surrounding assisted suicide are simple, with the only objections coming from far-right Christian conservatives.

A quick note – one item I shared with the editors was a document from 2005 that shows the Oregon assisted suicide law has no real provision for investigation of any incidents of assisted suicide that might have violated the law.  Here’s a link to the document, with its contents included under the link:

Oregon Dept. of Human Services Press Release (March 4, 2005)

DHS news release

March 4, 2005

Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180
Program contact: Richard Leman (503) 731-4273

No authority to investigate Death with Dignity case, DHS says


The Oregon Department of Human Services has no authority to investigate individual Death with Dignity cases, officials said Friday.
The state law authorizing physician-assisted suicide neither requires nor authorizes investigations by DHS, said Barry S. Kast, DHS assistant director for health services.

“DHS’ role is that of a steward of data about the use of the law,” Kast said. “This is a law, not a DHS program, and our only legal role is to report accurate aggregate data about the use of the law.”

The question was raised by news reports about an Oregon man who regained consciousness after taking a lethal dose of medication prescribed under the law.

Kast said the state boards of medical examiners and pharmacy have authority to investigate medical cases under certain circumstances, although he said the state’s physician-assisted suicide law doesn’t require them to investigate.

In its annual reports, available on its We​b site, DHS reports aggregate data such as the number of people who used the law, underlying diseases and demographics. DHS is prohibited by federal law from reporting medical information about specific patients either living or dead, Kast said. DHS reports data every March, and will release the seventh annual report on March 10.