Letter: The unintended consequences of assisted suicide laws

Published: 2/13/2020 12:01:30 AM

As is common among proponents of assisted suicide, Cheri Bach’s Jan. 7 opinion piece bills state-sanctioned killing as a dignified end of life “choice.”

What Bach says about individuals’ desire for increased autonomy and control is true. However, for many where assisted suicide is legal, it is not a true choice and takes away control over individual health care decisions.

When assisted suicide is on a list of “treatment” options, it becomes much more cost effective for insurers to cover than life-saving options. One example occurred in Oregon, where state-sponsored health care denied 64-year-old Barbara Wagner the chemotherapy prescribed by her doctor to treat lung cancer and instead offered to cover lethal drugs. For Barbara, the assisted-suicide policy in her state reduced choice.

Where assisted suicide is legal, it cheapens life and limits options. As stated in a recent report by the National Disability Council: “When assisted suicide is legalized in the context of the U.S. health care system, it immediately becomes the cheapest treatment. Direct coercion is not necessary. If insurers deny, or even simply delay, approval of expensive life-sustaining treatment, patients can be steered toward hastening their deaths.”

People in New Hampshire and our elected representatives should be aware of the unintended consequences of passing an assisted-suicide law branded as a “choice.” And they shouldn’t be fooled when a few loud voices promote assisted suicide and palliative care as equal health care rights.


East Templeton, Mass.

(The writer served as executive director of Perfect Peace Inc., an agency and community residence in Jaffrey that serves adults with developmental disabilities, for 27 years.)


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