Letter to editor – Vote no on Question 2
As a psychotherapist who has counseled thousands of elderly patients in nursing homes and other settings, I am adamantly opposed to Proposition 2, the assisted suicide proposal.
My opposition is based on three points. First, many elderly or severely ill people express a wish to die. This is almost never indicates that they are suicidal. Rather, it is a way of saying that they are very dissatisfied with their lives the way they are. Often, this can be mitigated by counseling, pain management, attention to providing for their interests, needs and desires, or simple passage of a little time to allow for adjustment to radical changes in their lives. I have seen many people verbalize a wish to die, and then fight with all their strength to recover when a possibly fatal flu or infection hits them. So, the first point is that it is ludicrous to absolutize one moment in a person’s life, especially when they are highly stressed by illness and other factors, and turn it into a life or death decision.
Secondly, in addition to the supports and interventions mentioned above, for those who truly are ready to die, Hospice provides pain relief, support, and counseling to make the process as easy and dignified as possible. That is to say, there are alternatives to suicide.
Thirdly, although we may not want to think about it and may wish it were not true, the sick and elderly often feel tremendous pressure from feeling they are a burden on their families or even on professional staff who care for them. This makes them extremely vulnerable to anyone – family, friends, caregivers – who may want them dead or who believes they would be “better off” dead.
Don’t trick yourself into believing these things don’t happen, even in the best of families and institutions. Moreover, the pressure the sick person places on themselves can be overwhelming. There is nothing in the proposed law to protect people from their own fears or from unscrupulous people around them. And once the pills are acquired, there is nothing to prevent anyone from forcibly administering them, since there is no requirement for a witness to this final act.
Even if you favor suicide as a viable choice, you should oppose this particular proposal because it is so poorly written. There are virtually no safeguards to protect the sick person, no oversight, no witnessing, nothing to protect against fear, family greed, or simple misperceptions and misinterpretations by family or caregivers. For the sake of “granny”, as well as yourself at some point down the road, I urge you to vote NO on proposition 2.
William P. Gooley
Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=27990