Medical aid in dying is a matter of compassion

Letter to the editor

Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon from her home in California following her terminal brain cancer diagnosis so that she wouldn’t have to suffer at her death. She was 29 years old when she died.

Never in a million years did I think that I would have to contemplate my own death in my 30’s, but I was diagnosed with brain cancer in the spring of 2015 at the age of 35.

End of life options affect young people too.

dying

Kelly Boyle and Matt Larson

In November, I and other Colorado voters will have the opportunity to vote for Proposition 106, which would legalize the practice of medical aid in dying. I personally don’t know whether I would take the option to exercise medical aid in dying and hope that my fight proves successful so that I’m never confronted with that decision. Knowing that dying from brain cancer can be an agonizing and painful death though, simply having the option would bring me a tremendous amount of peace and comfort while I continue my fight.

Medical aid in dying, also known as death with dignity, allows a terminally ill, mentally capable person with a life expectancy prognosis of six months or less to request, obtain and — if his or her suffering becomes unbearable — self- administer medication that shortens the dying process and brings about a peaceful death.

Medical aid in dying is not a replacement for palliative care and hospice. Rather, it compliments palliative care and hospice. There are certain terminal illnesses, of which brain cancer can be one in some cases, where palliative care and hospice cannot adequately manage the pain and agony. They only shorten the dying process and can alleviate the suffering.

Medical aid in dying is not euthanasia. Colorado Proposition 106 requires an individual to have a terminal illness with a prognosis of six months or less and other stringent qualifications, including the requirement that a person voluntarily requests and voluntarily self-administers the medication.

Medical aid in dying is not a “left” or “right” issue. Rather, it is an issue of compassion and freedom. I know members of both the “far left” and “far right,” and a lot of people in the middle, that support medical aid in dying.

Medical aid in dying is not about more government, it’s about less government. Currently, the government makes it illegal for doctors to offer medical aid in dying as an option. Colorado Proposition 106 would remove government from this personal issue, and instead let people decide for themselves what end of life options are best for them with their family, faith and doctors.

Medical aid in dying is not an affront to religion. It’s an embrace of religious freedom. Dying is one of the most, if not the most, spiritual events of one’s life. People of all faiths should be able to choose for themselves the circumstances under which they pass from this world.

Medical aid in dying is not assisted suicide. Suicide is for people who want to die. Brain cancer aside, I’ve had more blessings and good fortune than any one guy reasonably deserves in a lifetime. I have a wonderful life, and I desperately want to live. However, I don’t want to needlessly suffer if my battle with brain cancer proves unsuccessful and if palliative care and hospice are not able to adequately mitigate my suffering.

Proposition 106 is not flawed. The opposition won’t simply come out and say: “I want to impose my beliefs on others.” Rather, they will twist and distort aspects of Proposition 106 to claim that it is flawed.

Don’t be misled. Proposition 106 is modeled after the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Act and includes all the same safeguards and protections. In Oregon’s nearly 20 year experience with medical aid in dying, there has been no single instance of proven abuse, misuse, exploitation or coercion. Furthermore, four other states also authorize medical aid-in-dying and have had the same successful experience. This includes Washington, Vermont, Montana and California.

The stakes are high. If the opposition is successful in misleading the people of Colorado and Proposition 106 is defeated, the opportunity to give Coloradans the choice to limit their suffering is unlikely to come around again anytime soon. For Coloradans facing a terminal illness now, this is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Matthew Larson – Denver, Colorado

Editor’s note: The Metropolitan accepts submissions in the form of topic-driven columns and letters to the editor. All submissions should be sent by email to themetonline@gmail.com.

14 Responses to "Medical aid in dying is a matter of compassion"

  1. Willam Nat  October 25, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    You overlook the many vulnerable people of society who can be harmed by Proposition 106, which by the way IS assisted suicide despite the attempt by proponents to change dictionary definitions.

    Read the story of Stephanie Packer —– She was denied treatment because legal suicide was available:

    http://nypost.com/2016/10/24/terminally-ill-mom-denied-treatment-coverage-but-gets-suicide-drugs-approved/

    Reply
  2. Nicholas Tower  October 25, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Willam Nat: I read the article you linked. It’s a shame that the insurance company balked at paying for an alternative chemo therapy drug, though from the context it appears they were already paying for a first drug. Suppose we made changes to the laws to make it so that insurance companies were required to pay for secondary (and presumably more expensive) drugs, once a primary (less expensive) drug had proven ineffective. In that circumstance would you then support terminally ill people having the right to end their life?

    Reply
    • Willam Nat  October 26, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Thank you for reading the article. Unfortunately, there are many other aspects of Proposition 106 that will result in harm to vulnerable people. Here’s one of them:

      In 2015, a law just like Proposition 106 was introduced in Connecticut’s legislature (and rejected in committee). The State of Connecticut Department of Criminal Justice wrote a letter to the committee objecting that the falsification of the death certificate (like in Prop 106) would have “unintended and very unwelcome consequences.”

      Here’s the letter:
      https://www.cga.ct.gov/2015/JUDdata/Tmy/2015HB-07015-R000318-Division%20of%20Criminal%20Justice%20-%20State%20of%20Connecticut-TMY.PDF

      Reply
      • Bradley Williams  October 26, 2016 at 7:51 pm

        Thanks for the link. There is no transparent reason to falsify the death certificate. By doing so does a disservice to society by short circuiting studies for public’s benefit. Thanks Nat

        Reply
      • Nicholas Tower  October 26, 2016 at 9:53 pm

        Thanks again Willam Nat. I take it from your response that you agree that making the modification i proposed with regard to insurance companies would satisfy your first objection.

        With regard to your latest link, am i correct in understanding that you’re concern is that some parts of the constitutional amendment are worded imprecisely, such that you’re concerned a physician might be inadvertently accused of murder? If so, suppose we made changes to the law to fix the ambiguity you’re concerned about. In that circumstance would you then support terminally ill people having the right to end their life.

        Reply
        • will  October 27, 2016 at 7:25 am

          Ha! You can keep chipping away at my objections, but when are my objections going to add up to the point where YOU are going to admit that Proposition 106 is bad law and the voters of Colorado in November 2016 need to vote against it?

          Reply
          • Nicholas Tower  October 27, 2016 at 7:42 am

            Sorry if it feels like i’m “chipping away”; i’m just trying to understand what your position is. From you descriptions so far, it sounds like in principle you’re in favor of letting terminally ill people have the right to end they’re life, you just think the current implementations have some problems that need to be worked out. Is that accurate?

          • Bradley Williams  October 27, 2016 at 8:51 am

            The Colorado promoters of assisted suicide are guilty of false advertising. Their bills do not deliver as promised. If they are really supporting individual choices and rights they would provide an ordinary witness to the self administration of the lethal dose. Without a witness they are allowing forced euthanasia. I learned after caring for my wife’s last 18 months of declining autonomy. I learned that you can work on 4 hours sleep. I am focused on how this Prop 106 is written, it’s omissions and how it could be administered to my wife.
            Colorado Prop 106 provides no ordinary witness to the “self-administration of poison”.
            Even as the promoters have inundated us with their chant that the lethal dose “must be self-administered” and mentioned it 9 times in their 11 page Prop 106 they do not provide an ordinary witness to the act. That omission effectively eviscerates all of the so called safeguards. The difference between having a witness to “self administration” and no witness is that one honors individual rights and the other is non voluntary euthanasia. A promoter was once asked “why don’t you just legalize euthanasia?” He said “the public is not ready to accept euthanasia.”
            The process seems to be full of requirements on the front end up until the script is written. Then an heir can pick up the script and administer it without oversight. Know that only 2% of the doctors have attended these events in other states.
            Even the front end “requirements” have fatal flaws. A predatory heir may be a witness to the initial request along with a staff member of the facility. Does that sound like good public policy?
            The rest of the family is not required to be contacted. And everyone involved gets instant immunity. The death certificate is falsified by this law which makes it impossible to prosecute a murder when the death certificate states the underlying illness is the cause of death. There really is no transparent reason not to post poison as the cause.
            This bill Final #145 Article 48 provides that a predatory heir can facilitate the signup process, murder the individual and receive immunity all before the rest of the family is notified. This is neither reasonable nor prudent public policy. This is dangerous public policy that puts the entire population (all ages) at risk of exploitation by the medical-industrial-complex, organ traffickers and predatory heirs.
            I encourage people to read the Oregon model bill before taking a, or expounding on their position. We will agree no matter our starting position that this Prop 106 does not deliver.
            This bill is not the one.
            Respectfully submitted,
            Bradley Williams
            President
            MTaas dot org

      • Nicholas Tower  October 28, 2016 at 8:54 pm

        Perhaps we can approach the topic from another angle. Let’s say 106 gets voted down, but 4 years from now a similar proposition appears on the ballot. What features should we look for in this new proposition to make us vote yes on it?

        Reply
        • Bradley Williams  October 28, 2016 at 9:19 pm

          Not in order: no heirs allowed to witness, add an ordinary witness to the “self-administration of the fatal dose, require immediate family be notified, allow investigation after the death, post self-administration of lethal dose as one of the causes of death on certificate, register organ harvesting, register disposal when lethal dose not used (30%), suicide prevention guidelines applied, data compiled as who and where are the scripts written and who facilitated the event, recording fees and commission earned by facilitator via memorials and the like. That is a start.

          Reply
  3. Nicholas Tower  October 25, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I read the article you linked. It’s a shame that the insurance company balked at paying for an alternative chemo therapy drug, though from the context it appears they were already paying for a first drug. Suppose we made changes to the laws to make it so that insurance companies were required to pay for secondary (and presumably more expensive) drugs, once a primary (less expensive) drug had proven ineffective. In that circumstance would you then support terminally ill people having the right to end their life?

    Reply
  4. Bradley Williams  October 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

    The Colorado promoters of assisted suicide are guilty of false advertising. Their bills do not deliver as promised. If they are really supporting individual choices and rights they would provide an ordinary witness to the self administration of the lethal dose. Without a witness they are allowing forced euthanasia. I learned after caring for my wife’s last 18 months of declining autonomy. I learned that you can work on 4 hours sleep. I am focused on how this Prop 106 is written, it’s omissions and how it could be administered to my wife.
    Colorado Prop 106 provides no ordinary witness to the “self-administration of poison”.
    Even as the promoters have inundated us with their chant that the lethal dose “must be self-administered” and mentioned it 9 times in their 11 page Prop 106 they do not provide an ordinary witness to the act. That omission effectively eviscerates all of the so called safeguards. The difference between having a witness to “self administration” and no witness is that one honors individual rights and the other is non voluntary euthanasia. A promoter was once asked “why don’t you just legalize euthanasia?” He said “the public is not ready to accept euthanasia.”
    The process seems to be full of requirements on the front end up until the script is written. Then an heir can pick up the script and administer it without oversight. Know that only 2% of the doctors have attended these events in other states.
    Even the front end “requirements” have fatal flaws. A predatory heir may be a witness to the initial request along with a staff member of the facility. Does that sound like good public policy?
    The rest of the family is not required to be contacted. And everyone involved gets instant immunity. The death certificate is falsified by this law which makes it impossible to prosecute a murder when the death certificate states the underlying illness is the cause of death. There really is no transparent reason not to post poison as the cause.
    This bill Final #145 Article 48 provides that a predatory heir can facilitate the signup process, murder the individual and receive immunity all before the rest of the family is notified. This is neither reasonable nor prudent public policy. This is dangerous public policy that puts the entire population (all ages) at risk of exploitation by the medical-industrial-complex, organ traffickers and predatory heirs.
    I encourage people to read the Oregon model bill before taking a, or expounding on their position. We will agree no matter our starting position that this Prop 106 does not deliver.
    This bill is not the one.
    Respectfully submitted,
    Bradley Williams
    President
    MTaas dot org

    Reply
  5. R Brown  October 26, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Prop 106 is modeled after the 1997 Oregon Death with Dignity Law…

    If even a small fraction, or for that matter, any of the opposition’s claims were true, does anyone really believe that the people of Oregon would have allowed the law to endure, un-amended, for nearly 20 years?

    Opponents of 106 are just fear mongering… these are people that want to impose their views on others.

    Here’s a simple solution: If you don’t support 106, you don’t have to use it.

    Reply
    • Willam Nat  October 26, 2016 at 7:44 pm

      Given that under the Oregon law almost all abuses must be reported BY THE DOCTORS who approved the suicides, it’s not surprising that few problems have been documented. And if few problems have been revealed, what is there for the public to want to amend?

      Reply

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