Support for Medical Aid in Dying
We have noted the guest commentary, “The gift of death,” published in the Enterprise on May 24, and wish to comment.
The author, Emily Cappello, represents a right-to-life organization in Rochester, New York. As supporters of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act, now under consideration in the state Legislature, we want to provide a more accurate description and explanation of the act.
Ms. Cappello believes in “the beauty of suffering” and says that Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) “smothers suffering’s potential redemptive richness.” Those who hold such beliefs may do so, but they should allow others the freedom to make their own decisions. MAID would offer a dying individual the option of deciding when they have suffered enough.
Ms. Cappello says that the definition of euthanasia generally includes assisted dying. According to the American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics, euthanasia is “the administration of a lethal agent by another person to a patient for the purpose of relieving the patient’s intolerable and incurable suffering.” MAID provides that the dying person request the medication and administer it themselves, so it does not fall within that definition.
Ms. Cappello states that “Gallup polling demonstrates that support for euthanasia is declining.” Gallup has polled both euthanasia and “doctor-assisted suicide” which they define as a “patient self-administering a fatal dose of medication prescribed by a doctor.” Approval rates under that definition rose to 65% in 2018 from much lower levels in previous years. Gallup began polling euthanasia in 1947 and 1950 when fewer than 40% supported it. In 2018, 72% approved.
Ms. Cappello says that MAID “involves the intentional taking of life.” To be eligible for MAID, a person must have a prognosis of six months or less to live and so can determine when to die, not whether.
Ms. Cappello expresses concern for “those vulnerable to exploitation.” It is true that some disability groups have expressed concern about the possibility of abuse, despite the fact that, in many years of implementation of MAID in 10 states and the District of Columbia, there has been no record of abuse. Others in the disability community are insulted by the notion that they are not able to make appropriate decisions at the end of their lives, like anyone else.
Ms. Cappello speaks of natural death as “an opportunity for loved ones to give of themselves.” MAID is also such an opportunity. A dying person can gather friends and family, usually in their own home, at a time they deem appropriate, to take the medication. Such a peaceful death is a blessing to the dying person and to the family and friends, who are spared bitter memories of their loved one’s painful suffering.
We urge support of New York’s Medical Aid in Dying Act.
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This guest commentary was written by Vermontville resident Nancy Murphy on behalf of Adirondack Voters for Change.