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Readers Respond

Let doctors focus on healing patients, not helping them commit suicide

Assisted suicide

Lewis Cohen argues for passage of the End of Life Option Act which has been defeated in the Maryland General Assembly for the past five years, but actually illustrates one of the many dangers of this terrible bill (“Deathly ill Marylanders should have a choice on how and when they die,” Dec. 4). Every year, proponents of physician-assisted suicide argue that there is no cause for concern about a “slippery slope” into expansion of assisted suicide to euthanasia by lethal injection and to patients without terminal illness. Yet Dr. Cohen argues precisely for this expansion.

Last year, Oregon removed one of the key safeguards, a 15-day waiting period between patient requests, and considered expanding the program to allow use of lethal injection or gas. In three short years, Canada’s euthanasia program has expanded, and forces are at work pressing to allow euthanasia for patients without life-threatening illness, for those with dementia who cannot consent or withdraw prior consent and for children. These practices already exist in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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The reality is that once the fallacy that assisted suicide is “compassionate medical care” is widely accepted, such expansion to other patient groups is inevitable, and that is why the National Council on Disability and all the major disability rights organizations in the United States that have taken a position on physician-assisted suicide oppose it.

Dr. Cohen also neglects to mention that the majority of American physicians oppose participation in physician-assisted suicide. In Oregon, only 2-3% of the state’s physicians write all the prescriptions. In the District of Columbia, after a year of implementation in 2018, only 2 out of 11,000 licensed physicians agreed to participate. In June 2019, the American Medical Association voted to maintain its ethical opposition to PAS by an overwhelming margin.

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Legalization of physician-assisted suicide is unnecessary and dangerous public policy, particularly in our modern era of cost-containment. Maryland legislators should be promoting greater access to high quality palliative and hospice care, not enabling an easier form of suicide for sick patients.

Dr. Joseph Marine, MD, Baltimore

The writer is a cardiologist and member of the coalition Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide.

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