Letters: Should Tennessee legalize physician-assisted death?

Johnson City Press • Dec 9, 2018 at 6:00 AM

We asked you with Monday’s Question of the Week whether Tennessee should legalize physician-assisted death. Here are some of your responses.

Life and death is a personal choice

There are two major reasons laws should be passed to allow physician assisted death. The first is that individuals should have control over their own destiny. Whether they live or die should not be a committee decision, it should be their own choice. Quality of life is personal to each individual and the decision to end a life of misery should be made by the person suffering.

Second, the cost of keeping people alive in their advanced years is breaking the bank in terms of medical care. We spend billions to treat people without hope of curing their disease and the decision to end those treatments should be left to the individual and their families.

In 2016, 116,000 people died of Alzheimer’s disease. How much money was spent keeping them alive when they have no idea who they are? Also in 2016, 600,000 people died of cancer. How many of those suffered needless pain and agony toward the end of their lives? In that same year, 45,000 people took their own lives by suicide and I'm sure a good percentage of those were people with terminal illnesses.

It seems the people most against death with dignity are the most religious among us. I don't understand the lack of compassion toward people who are suffering, especially when they will be going to a better place after death.

Johnson City

Why I support assisted dying

Last Monday, Brandon Paykamian came to my seminar to report on what I thought would be a third- or fourth-page story. The seminar, which started out as a class assignment, turned out to be a front page article! I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to the seminar and the Johnson City Press article. Now to see it as the Question of the Week shows me that it is an issue that interests people. I’ve realized that what started out as a class assignment for me, has turned into a discussion across the area that I never imagined. Since the article appeared, I have been asked numerous times about what drives my passion for this research.

My interest in end of life health care and assisted dying started in the fall of 2012 after my mom spent months in hospice. She suffered a lot, and what was supposed to be two weeks turned out to be three months. She wouldn't have qualified for assisted dying because she had a form of dementia the last part of her life, but had she known what was going on she wouldn't have wanted to live through it. I realized from that experience that sometimes death isn't the worst thing that can happen to you, and I decided to learn more about end-of-life options and policy. It has been a journey for me ever since. I simply feel that people have the right to choose how they die and at what point they don't want to suffer anymore. I know it's an issue that not everyone is comfortable with and it's not something that is right for everyone, but I think it's something that merits a serious conversation.

Thank you for bringing awareness to an important issue.

Johnson City

Allow safe, dignified death

Rather than banning physicians and patients from the practice of assisted death, I would like to see it legalized and carefully monitored.

In thinking about this, I conclude that people will find a way to get what they want, regardless of legalities. We only need consider our history of prohibition and our attempts to abolish drug use and abortion to see that keeping things from people who want them is a fool's errand. It does not work. It would be better to have a physician provide a fatal cocktail than for a criminal to provide one.

I also believe that people don't want to die, but if they must die, they want it to be painless and dignified and quick. We can provide pain relief, but speed and dignity are not always in the cards. A physician could help with that.

My last point is that I am glad I am not a physician. I would be conflicted if my patient asked me to provide a fatal injection.

Johnson City

Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected].

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