Monday, April 20, 2015

Letter to the editor: Assisted suicide bill has insufficient safeguards

The following letter to the editor was published on April 20, 2015, in the Minnesota Daily.

The Editorial Board contends that a new proposal to legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota includes sufficient safeguards. It most certainly does not.

Consider, for example, that the bill does not require that anyone witness the death. There are no safeguards at all once the lethal drug has been dispensed. The proposed legislation opens the door to various kinds of pressure, coercion and abuse.

Or consider that the bill does not require that a patient undergo psychiatric evaluation before receiving the lethal prescription. In Oregon, which pioneered assisted suicide, only 5.5 percent of assisted suicide victims first receive psychiatric evaluation—some would want to live if given proper mental health care.

The Editorial Board suggests that suicide may be necessary to prevent pain and suffering. But concern about pain is not a major reason cited by those who seek suicide in Oregon or Washington—the primary concerns involve disability ("losing autonomy," inability to do certain activities, etc.).

Our state should reject the discriminatory and harmful idea that the lives of disabled, sick and elderly persons are worth less than the lives of others. Everyone deserves our support and care, including the best palliative and hospice care. No one should be denied the equal protection of the law.

The legalization of assisted suicide would pose broad dangers to vulnerable members of our society.