Legalizing assisted suicide is a bad idea [Letter]

Alexa Fraser's recent commentary promotes the idea of legalizing physician-assisted suicide ("Political candidates should debate the right to die," Sept. 28).

The term "physician-assisted suicide" means that a physician provides the means or information to enable a patient to perform a life-ending act, such as through a lethal prescription.

The premise of Ms. Fraser's commentary is that legalization of physician-assisted suicide will eliminate other types of suicides, such as those resulting from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

This premise is not, however, supported by statistics from Oregon, which is the only state in which physician-assisted suicide has been legal long enough to have valid statistics over time.

The Oregon statistics support the conclusion that, if anything, "ordinary" suicides will actually increase if physician-assisted suicide were legalized in Maryland.

Please consider the following.

Oregon's assisted suicide act went into effect in 1997. By 2000, Oregon's regular suicide rate was "increasing significantly," and by 2010 its suicide rate was 35 percent above the national average. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, Oregon's suicide rate was 41 percent above the national average.

Moreover, the cost of suicide is enormous. In 2010 alone, hospitalization charges for self-inflicted injuries exceeded $41 million.

In short, there is no statistical support for the premise that conventional suicides will be eliminated if physician-assisted suicide is legalized. The data, instead, suggest that the opposite is true, and that the financial cost to the state of Maryland could be enormous.

Margaret Dore, Seattle, Wash.

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