It’s not medical aid. It’s patient abandonment

To the editor:

Throughout life we encounter times of physical, emotional and existential pain. Sometimes the pain causes us to seek care to help us cope and improve our life. Some people think premature death is a treatment for pain. It seems the opposite of that to me.

Rev. Jeff Black supports Assembly Bill 4321, “Medical Aid in Dying”(another name for assisted suicide), because “it is sometimes really difficult for doctors and nurses to sustain comfort in the face of such ravages as aggressive late-stage cancers.” This bill allows doctors to prescribe lethal medicines so terminally ill people can kill themselves. Rev. Black suggests the biblical idea of stewardship justifies destroying our bodies to stop pain, but the Bible says without equivocation, “Thou shall not kill”!

Advances in pain management render intractable pain a scare tactic whose time is past. It doesn’t justify taking a human life. There are effective treatments for physical, emotional and existential pain. Our state Medical Society has made specific recommendations that the state health department improve end-of-life care and make pain management and other solutions available to everyone.

The pandemic revealed home care and nursing home inadequacies and shortages that stem from a lack of funding and political will. The reverend may have the most altruistic of motives for advocating for A4321, but I suspect part of the legislative support for this dangerous bill involves saving money by offloading major responsibility for these problems onto individual physicians instead of implementing the society’s recommendations.

This bill uses doublespeak to mold people’s compassion into a weapon. It proposes making it easier for people to kill themselves and declares the action “shall not be construed for any purpose to constitute suicide.” Well-funded groups employ slick marketing to persuade legislators to support this bill, despite suicide already being an epidemic. While some groups get suicide prevention services, terminally ill people get lethal “medicine.” This bill broadcasts a value judgment that says, “Some lives are worth extending. Some aren’t worth the cost.”

Abandoning patients is not the answer. When a person says they want to end their lives, often they’re asking, “Do I still matter?” “Am I too much of a burden?” “Will I die alone?” I think when our time comes, we deserve a better answer than a fatal prescription.

Rev. Black feels compassion for suffering people and wants deathbed pain to end. Instead of A4321, we will be better served when New York legislators adopt the Medical Society of the State of New York’s recommendations.

Sally White, MD

North Bangor


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