Good Opinion Items in Washington Post and Newsday

The Washington Post “Health 202” newsletter published an encouraging opinion piece this week entitled “Legalizing assisted suicide has stalled at every level.” According to the piece, in 2017 “bills were either quashed in committee or passed one legislative chamber but not the other. That was the case even in states run by Democrats, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and Hawaii.”

Moreover, “New York’s highest court upheld the state’s ban on assisted death in September, ruling unanimously that the terminally ill patients who brought the case don’t have a constitutional right to obtain life-ending drugs from a doctor.”

The authors also reported on an important bipartisan Resolution on assisted suicide (H Con. Res. 80) recently introduced in Congress:

Eleven House members – including six Democrats — have introduced a resolution condemning the practice.

“It undermines a key safeguard that protects our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, including the elderly, people with disabilities and people experiencing psychiatric diagnoses,” the resolution says. “Americans deserve better.”

To read the full article, go here.

In addition, Newsday published my letter to the editor in response to an editorial favoring assisted suicide. The text of the letter follows, and can be found on the Newsday letters page.

State has a proper role in suicide cases

In response to “New York’s aid-in-dying advocates look to 2018” [Opinion, Sept. 28], as the Court of Appeals noted, New Yorkers already may refuse to be hooked up to life-prolonging machines. Lethal drugs prescribed to cause death are a very different matter.

The court also said, “The State pursues a legitimate purpose in guarding against the risks of mistake and abuse. The State may rationally seek to prevent the distribution of prescriptions for lethal dosages of drugs that could, upon fulfillment, be deliberately or accidentally misused.”

In Oregon, we don’t have to look far to find cases in which insurers denied coverage for prescribed chemotherapy but offered coverage for assisted suicide: Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup, Oregonians with cancer, were informed of this decision by the Oregon Health Plan.

We don’t have to look far for cases in which lethal prescriptions were given to people who were not terminal (having no more than six months to live). In 2016 in Oregon, at least one person lived another 539 days; another year, the longest was 1,009 days.

Assisted-suicide advocacy groups urge us to grant blanket legal immunity to all involved, but legislators owe a duty to all, not just the few who may think they are safe from mistake, coercion and abuse.

Diane Coleman, Rochester

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of Not Dead Yet, a disability rights organization that opposes assisted suicide.


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