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Reader's view: Minnesotans deserve dignity, not assisted suicide

Despite Dr. Rebecca Thoman's attempt to use a sugar-coated term in her Jan. 12 commentary, "Don't buy false claims, respect end-of-life wishes," the fact is "medical aid in dying" and "physician-assisted suicide" are one in the same.

The discussion of assisted suicide typically is aimed at those at the ends of their lives; but the reality is, where it's legal, the practice poses a danger to those living with disabilities or those with mental health issues.

Five states permit the dangerous practice of allowing physicians to write lethal prescriptions to people living with serious illnesses. In these states we have seen numerous accounts of failed safeguards. Often, oversight is seriously lacking to ensure the law isn't abused. Additionally, there is no requirement that patients be screened for depression or other treatable mental illness.

Despite Dr. Thoman's stance that assisted suicide does not result in cost savings, the truth is that it can be an attempt to lower costs. Unfortunately, money becomes a key factor in pushing for physician-assisted suicide. The cost of keeping patients comfortable at the ends of their lives is now looked at in dollar signs. It's easier to push physician-assisted suicide instead of truly helping patients cope with the complexities and emotions at the ends of their lives.

Another point advocates claim is assisted suicide is a peaceful way to end one's life. This couldn't be further from the truth. Under the law in Oregon and Washington, patients are prescribed pills and left to overdose. This has caused documented cases of people vomiting while becoming unconscious or gasping for breath before starting to spasm. This is hardly peaceful.

In a society that should value those at the ends of their lives, physician-assisted suicide laws do the opposite. I'm sorry, Dr. Thoman, but Minnesotans deserve more from their health care system and doctors. They deserve dignity.

Tatiana Bergum

Washington, D.C.

The writer is the deputy press secretary for the National Right to Life Committee and a former Minnesotan.

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