January 18, 2022

In reference to your editorial, “Choosing Death” (BDN Jan. 14).

The sentiments of Sen. Pam Cahill, R-Woolwich, who recently introduced LD 1420, “An Act concerning the Terminally Ill,” to the Maine Legislature is to be seriously looked at. Who could question the sincerity and compassion that such a bill represents. Unfortunately upon further investigation and thought, the sincerity of the bill is not questioned, but the long-term consequences are.

There are several facts that need to be noted.

First of all, most people die peacefully in their sleep. Two 1991 surveys done by the National Institute of Aging showed that a third of Americans die at home, 45 percent in the hospital and only 31 percent needed pain medication prior to death. Thus the need for medically assisted deaths is non-existant.

The issue of pain seems to be a justifiable reason that many consider putting people out of their misery rather than letting them suffer. But there are excellent options and alternatives in pain control. Oral morphine has proven to be such an effective pain control that according to a recent British publication, the British Hospice movement now considers medically assisted deaths to be irrelevant.

It goes without saying that physician-assisted deaths lead to the “slippery slope” syndrome. The question is, what is there to stop the addition of the crippled, the aged, the retarded, the unproductive, to the list of “terminally ill?” Let’s not be naive; whatever law can be made can also be changed.

If the physician-assisted deaths are improper, then what are the alternatives? Real investment in public and private hospice programs. The encouraging of insurance companies to offer coverage of both in-patient and out-patient hospice care. The education of doctors in the use of oral morphine.

The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated. There is simply something seriously wrong with a society that is enamored with the beginning of life unnaturally via artificial insemination, surrogate parenting, fetal egg transplant, while at the same time terminating life in the womb practically willy-nilly. Now we are anxiously initiating medically assisted deaths. Is it true that our value of human life has become so helter-skelter that no reasonable person could help but conclude that the value of human life is arbitrary? If that conclusion is correct, then we ought to stop and take stock of our direction. God save us. John Walsh East Holden

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