Locals debate assisted suicide: should it be legal?

- ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC)- The assisted suicide debate has made national headlines once again, after a 29-year old terminally ill woman named Brittany Maynard moved to Oregon to end her life.

Maynard's story is one that rings true for so many. A wife, daughter and professional, Maynard had her life planned. She was excited to begin a family with her husband. Until the day she was told by doctors that she had the most lethal form of brain cancer, one that would take her life in six-months. Maynard decided to move to Oregon, one of the states where assisted-suicide is legal, choosing to end her life before cancer does.

The assisted suicide debate has been a hot-button issue since the 1990's in Rochester. Dr. Timothy Quill, a local physician who specializes in palliative care, has been at the forefront of the, "death with dignity," debate. Quill published numerous books and articles in major medical journals about the topic. Also, he was the lead physician plaintiff in a New York State legal case challenging the law prohibiting physician-assisted deaths. His stance, is pro-assisted suicide while many Rochestertians, like Diane Coleman, feel quite the opposite.

"We are a National Disability Right's group that opposes legalization of assisted suicide," Coleman said about her organization, Not Dead Yet. "Where assisted suicide is legal there is a blanket, an immunity that covers all of that and there is no investigation, no questions asked and the door for that needs to remain open not closed. Because of the real risks that old, ill and disabled people face in this society."

Coleman believes if assisted suicide were legal in all states, the numbers of abused elderly and disabled patients would rise. She also hates the term, "Dying with dignity."
"When you ask people in the pro-assistant suicide movement what do they mean by dignity and indignity they usually talk about being dependent on others for physical care, like nursing care and just basic bathing and so on," Coleman said. "They call that indignity which is concerning to people with disabilities who need help like that everyday."

Coleman said there are three reasons why assisted-suicide should not be legal. She believes burdened caregivers could coerce their mentally incapacitated relatives or friends to end their lives, she believes that some terminal sentences could be wrong and that individuals who get depressed because of their terminal sentences have outlets to express their feelings. She also says that this day in age, dying shouldn't be painful, and if it is painful, it's malpractice.

Assisted suicide is legal in Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana.

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