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A BID TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE END OF LIFE

Discard euphemism of ‘death with dignity’ - it’s suicide

September 27, 2011

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WHEN WE discard the euphemism “death with dignity’’ and replace it with plain English, we see that the initiative petition proposes suicide for qualifying citizens (“Death with dignity in Mass.,’’ Scot Lehigh, Op-ed, Sept. 23). The idea is bad, and the petition is bad.

Certainly, terminal illness is a wrenching problem. But there are others. Loss of good name, heartbreak, and financial ruin are among the other reasons for which competent people commit suicide. Does anyone doubt that mental anguish can be as great as physical pain?

We can be sure that every person who ever took his own life felt that his reason for doing so was compelling. It is not the province of government to evaluate the motives for suicide or to legislate the timing and circumstances in which a person may take his own life. Where is the justice or the compassion in providing clean, easy suicide to one person, while someone else, in equal anguish, has to do it the hard way? This is why right-thinking societies do not start granting exceptions to the no-suicide rule.

For example, with what moral authority will mental health counselors try to convince despairing teens that suicide is not the answer, once the state has legitimized suicide by creating even a conditioned right to it?

This misguided petition would create worse problems than the one it purports to solve. That is a good definition of bad law.

Janet Callahan
Malden