Denying death with dignity is cruel and unusual punishment

To the editor: I cannot help but respond to the article on Colorado resident Julie Selsberg and her father's plea to die. Recently, my mother and sisters watched our father die of cancer. Like Selsberg's father, mine suffered terribly. ("In Colorado, terminally ill man's public letter spurs lawmakers to act," Dec. 25)

Apropos legal discussions regarding state executions, the term "cruel and unusual punishment" is often cited. The irony here is that we legally protect execution methods from being "cruel and unusual" yet refuse the same protection for one's right to die without suffering.


As Selsberg stated, this is not suicide, in which the person suffering has a choice whether to live or die. Death with dignity is for those who no longer have a choice.

In not allowing a terminally ill person the right to die in peace, we are inflicting death by cruel and unusual punishment on these people.

Leslie Cook, Lake Forest


To the editor: Readers should not get the impression that only the major religions oppose assisted suicide. In fact, every major disability rights organization in the country is against it.

Also, the American Medical Assn. and its affiliate state societies, including the California Medical Assn., also staunchly oppose physician-assisted suicide.

Assisted suicide is a deadly mix with our profit-driven healthcare system. Once legal, it becomes the cheapest "treatment." It increases the risk of elder abuse and the devaluation of the lives of people with disabilities.

The legal alternative of palliative sedation for people dying in discomfort makes the hazards of assisted suicide unnecessary dangers.

Marilyn Golden, Berkeley

The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.

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