Bradley Williams makes a good point about the problems with legalizing assisted suicide, one of them being that people assisting a suicide may have their own agenda ("The perils of assisted suicide," Oct. 2).
Mr. Williams gives the example of a recent Montana case in which a man is accused of encouraging a teenage girl to kill herself in order to prevent her from testifying against him in a rape trial.
I am a doctor in Oregon, one of the few states in which physician-assisted suicide is legal. In this context, assisters with an agenda include our state's Medicaid program, which uses coverage incentives to steer patients to suicide.
The program will pay for a patient's suicide but will not necessarily pay for the patient's treatment to cure a disease or to extend the patient's life.
In other words, with the legalization of assisted suicide, the "treatment" of suicide is displacing desired treatments to cure or to extend life.
I first became aware of such issues in 1982, shortly before my first wife died of cancer. We had just visited her doctor. As we were leaving, he had suggested that she overdose herself on medication.
I still remember the look of horror on her face. She said, "Ken, he wants me to kill myself."
We must protect our health care system from such abuses. Citizens should tell their legislators and other public officials to say no to assisted-suicide.
Kenneth Stevens, Sherwood, Ore.
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