I appreciate and respect that religious perspectives differ on matters of life and death. I do, however, want to address some points raised in “‘Medical aid in dying’ omitted key context” (Jan. 15) that are not matters of faith, but misinterpretations of facts.
There is no evidence that medical-aid-in-dying laws cause suicide rates to increase. It is true that suicide rates went up in Oregon after passage of its Death with Dignity law. But suicide rates went up in every state. The increase was not related to the Death with Dignity law, but reflected a broader, nationwide trend.
It is true that pain is not the primary reason that individuals choose medical aid in dying. Most of those who choose medical aid in dying are suffering from end-stage cancer or a neurodegenerative disorder like ALS where pain is only one of many symptoms. Anyone who has sat at the bedside of a slowly dying loved one knows that the deterioration of the body with an intact mental state is its own kind of suffering.
In the United States, the medical aid in dying protocol is limited to adults with terminal illness and decisionmaking capacity. This has not changed in more than two decades and, due to its track record of success, has expanded to six more states and the District of Columbia.
Data show there is no financial incentive to utilize medical aid in dying for either the patient’s family or for the health care system as a whole. The vast majority of individuals who use medical aid in dying are in hospice receiving only comfort care. They have already exhausted all treatment options and are merely choosing not to prolong an inevitable death.
The End-of-Life Options Act would not hasten “other people’s death,” as the Rev. Hinz suggests. It would empower individuals to make their own choices at the end of life and increase our willingness to talk openly about death, life and the values we share.
Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, is a member of the Minnesota Senate.