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Judge Gorsuch's views on what he erroneously terms "Assisted Suicide" are very alarming to those who support the right of terminally ill patients to choose a more peaceful death via aid in dying. This refers to the practice where a physician prescribes medication for a mentally competent terminally ill patient, which the patient may ingest to achieve a peaceful death. Modern medicine can extend the dying process so that some patients find themselves trapped in an experience they find unbearable. Thus the option of AID is widely supported nationwide, the vast majority of Americans, around 70%, as well as by doctors, by an almost 2 to 1 margin, 57% to 29%. Six states now permit this practice.
Judge Gorsuch asserts that "all human beings are intrinsically valuable", but he envisions a "legal system that allows for terminally ill patients to refuse treatments that would extend their lives", which has been the law now for several decades. According to his reasoning, a dying patient may have life sustaining treatment stopped, for example refusing continued treatment with a ventilator, knowing she will die, and where the doctor who withdraws the ventilator plays an active role in the resulting death. But, another dying patient not on life extending treatment, suffering equally or even more, would be prohibited, according to the position taken by Judge Gorsuch, from securing a prescription for medication the patient could ingest to achieve a peaceful death, even though the doctor plays a more limited role in the resulting death. It is both unreasonable and unjust to deny the second patient the right to die on her terms, but to allow the first patient to do so, when the intention of both patients is the same and the result is the same.
Finally, competent dying patients who seek a more peaceful death via aid in dying are not suicidal; the term "assisted suicide" has been rejected as inaccurate and pejorative by health care organizations and in the laws allowing aid in dying. Unlike those who commit suicide (and could continue to live but choose not to) terminally ill patients do not want to die, but they are dying. It is only a question as to how these patients will die. Oregon’s law permitting AID has worked well over 20 years and none of the problems speculated about by opponents have presented.
How one crosses the threshold to death when confronted by death due to terminal illness is a profoundly personal and private matter. Terminally ill, mentally competent adult patients should be able to die on their terms.
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