• Paul Stark

Letter to the editor: The dangers of assisted suicide

The following letter to the editor ran on Dec. 7, 2016, in the Austin Daily Herald in response to an earlier article.

The Dec. 4 story about an Austin man who wishes to end his life is thoroughly one-sided and misleading. The article repeatedly claims that it is "not physician-assisted suicide" when a doctor prescribes a lethal drug overdose for a patient to intentionally end his or her own life. That's false. It is, by definition, assisted suicide, according to the American Medical Association (see the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics), Minnesota law (Minnesota Statutes section 609.215), and anyone who knows what the words "assisted" and "suicide" mean.


Moreover, the article ignores the many dangers of legalizing assisted suicide. For example, assisted suicide laws in other states do not have any safeguards once the lethal prescription has been filled. In addition, some Medicaid patients in those states have been denied treatment and offered (less-expensive) assisted suicide instead. Some patients have qualified for assisted suicide (after receiving a six-month prognosis) only to go on to live for years—time that would be thrown away with assisted suicide. And only a tiny fraction of assisted suicide patients first receive psychiatric evaluation to ensure that they are not influenced by depression or mental illness.

Finally, the article implies that suicide (which our society, in other cases, seeks to prevent) is an appropriate response when someone does not have an "active" lifestyle. This disturbing double-standard is why many disability rights organizations and advocates strongly oppose the legalization of assisted suicide.

Minnesotans should continue to reject this dangerous practice.

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