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Pass on assisted suicide

In 1997, Oregon became the first state to legalize medically assisted suicide. Since then, eight other states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation.

This year, New Hampshire lawmakers are again taking up the issue, although they rejected a similar proposal in 2014. Neighboring Maine approved a measure in June allowing the practice.

Wednesday, the New Hampshire House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on both sides of the issue, with emotional input offered by a Hopkinton mother who described her son’s death from pancreatic cancer in Oregon. She said, although her son had a prescription for medicine to end his life, he did not use it, but was comforted knowing that option existed.

“Patients have statutory rights during their lives. Why would we deny them their rights in their final days?” the woman said.

Opposing the legislation were two Pelham brothers suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. They said they each lived their lives to the fullest, knowing their disease would eventually be terminal.

“How would killing myself with a doctor’s permission give me dignity,” Ben Safford said.

Other opponents of the proposal said it devalues life and those who have disabilities.

“Embedded in the assisted suicide debate is a grimly veiled, ableist narrative which implies that disability is a fate worse than death,” said Lisa Beaudoin, executive director of the Able New Hampshire advocacy group.

Several religious organizations and hospitals argued the legislation flies in the face of efforts to reduce the state’s suicide rate, which increased by 48% from 1999 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We couldn’t agree more. Officials must tread lightly when examining this issue. It is a slippery slope when governments become involved in the most basic tenets of our lives. It also sends the wrong message to those with serious illnesses. Too many ethical questions surround this issue – for doctors and lawmakers, alike – so officials may be better rejecting it once again.

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