The letter "Death with dignity is not suicide" (Sept. 5) tries to resurrect hopes for a failed assisted suicide bill in the state Assembly by twisting the term suicide.
Suicide is suicide — taking one's own life, whether at a young age or at an old age. Assisted suicide is enlisting someone else in the act — often a doctor of medicine, a profession historically committed to "do no harm."
Assisted suicide advocates prefer the presumptuous euphemism "death with dignity," as if suicide were somehow more dignified than battling a terminal disease. Assisted suicide lobbyists deploy euphemisms because Californians recognize the danger of promoting suicide under any guise. Sanctioning assisted suicide sends a dangerous message to any teenager momentarily despairing of life, any individual suffering from chronic depression, anyone caught in a seemingly insurmountable crisis.
Advocating suicide for terminally ill patients also sends a dangerous message to cost-conscious HMO's, government health care bureaucrats, and unscrupulous heirs. How quickly the right to die can morph into the duty to die.
Terminally ill patients do not need euphemisms but honest communication and understanding, effective pain management and unconditional love — the kind that comes alongside the patient with true compassion and a commitment to care.
Vice President for Government Relations, Christian Medical Association - Washington Office