Re: “No on Proposition 106: Aid-in-dying measure lacks proper safeguards,” Oct. 11 endorsement.
I practiced family medicine in a small town in Oregon for 35 years, retiring in 2012. I cared for many terminally ill patients, and when Oregon’s Death With Dignity law passed some of my dying patients, albeit rarely, would ask me if I could help them achieve a death that they could control. My experience caring for thousands of patients over the years had taught me that death is not the enemy; suffering is the enemy. Their dignity and suffering were not defined by me, their doctor. I listened to my patients.
Colorado’s Proposition 106 is similar to Oregon’s law (in effect almost 20 years).
The concerns published in the Denver Post editorial have been examined and re-examined and have not occurred in Oregon, and will not occur in Colorado.
In Oregon there is no evidence of abuse of the law, no evidence of a slippery slope and no evidence of the “irreversible door” the Post editorial posits. More people do not die in Oregon, but fewer people suffer.
Aid in dying is patient-driven and patient-centered. “Professionalism” means putting the patient first. Medical aid in dying is not suicide, as your editorial inappropriately described it. Someone who commits suicide has, by definition, a mental illness and is “disconnected.” As a doctor, our job is to refer those patients to an appropriate mental health care provider, as we would for any patient with similar symptoms.
A person in the process of dying wants to live but will not. She or he is “connected”; to family, hospice and the medical system which includes doctors, nurses, family therapists, music therapists and others.
Medical aid in dying is a voluntary process. No one who does not agree with it needs to participate, and in fact it has enhanced end-of-life care, palliative care, and hospice care in Oregon, something that all Coloradans should support. I am proud that I live and practiced in Oregon, and that I was able to help my dying patients achieve a compassionate and desired end to their own stories. Proposition 106 should be approved by Colorado citizens.
David R. Grube, M.D., is national medical director for Compassion and Choices in Oregon.
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