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The most frequently given argument in support of legalizing assisted suicide is a person’s right to end their life rather than suffer from a painful, incurable disease.
But in a report from the Oregon Public Health Department listing patients’ motivations for choosing assisted suicide, “pain” is not among the top five reasons. The three most frequently mentioned end-of-life concerns were: loss of autonomy (91.4%), decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable (86.7%), and loss of dignity (71.4%).
Most Americans Oppose Assisted Suicide and its Consequences
This is in spite of a recent poll indicating 61% of Americans do not support assisted suicide and also have concerns on related issues including:
- Fewer life-saving options offered at end of life
- Risk to elderly in nursing homes
- Increased likelihood depressed people will take their lives
- A wrong medical diagnosis
- A doctor’s misconception of a patient’s state of mind
- Assisted suicide as a cost-saving measure for health care decisions
- Pressuring patients to take their life so as not to be a burden
The greatest impact of legalizing assisted suicide, however, may be in creating a culture which encourages suicide among people as they become less able to live independently or participate in activities that make life enjoyable.
Role of Semantics in Legalizing Assisted Suicide
Semantics has played on important role in legalizing assisted suicide since Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act in 1994 through the present day. While “Death with Dignity” continues be a commonly used phrase, states are increasingly using the acronyms MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) and POLST (Physician’s Orders Life-Sustaining Treatment) for legislation legalizing assisted suicide.
Pro-euthanasia group Compassion & Choices (formerly The Hemlock Society) advocates POLST/MOLST. Hemlock Society founder Derek Humphrey authored Final Exit, a “how-to” guide for assisted suicide which spent 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Humphrey’s first wife died from an intentional overdose of medication while fighting breast cancer, and his second wife committed suicide while in remission from breast cancer.
Stay informed about your state’s legislation on assisted suicide.
Elect state political leaders who will work to protect the ill and the aging in your community.
“You and I have dignity regardless of how old we are, how disabled we are…we have intrinsic worth that is incalculable. The idea of saying the only way you can have dignity is to kill yourself” is a falsehood promoted every time a person use the phrase “Death with Dignity”. So states William Toffler, MD in discussing the role of semantics in efforts to legalize assisted suicide.