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Letters to the Editor: Forcing dying patients to wait before ending their lives is cruel

Amanda Villegas comforts her husband, Chris Davis, before his death.
Amanda Villegas comforts her husband, Chris Davis, before his death. Davis died of bladder cancer before he could complete the 13-step process to receive life-ending medication.
(Family photo)

To the editor: Your excellent editorial on California’s aid-in-dying law, which has worked as intended, highlights the need for improvements.

There is no statutory waiting period for ending life-sustaining treatments such as withdrawing a feeding tube, ceasing dialysis or turning off a pacemaker, even though doing so will result in death. So, there is no justification for a 15-day waiting period for a dying patient to obtain a prescription for drugs that may be taken when — if ever — suffering becomes unbearable.

Also, many other reasonable safeguards for medical aid in dying will remain, but it’s important to note that these safeguards are not statutorily required when a patient hastens death by other means, such as never starting life-sustaining treatments.

Of course, best practice dictates that patients are offered treatment options to improve quality life such as hospice care, which many patients who access medical aid in dying receive. But, in the end, a dying patient should be able to choose the timing of their death.

David Leven, Pelham, N.Y.

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The writer is executive director emeritus and senior consultant for End of Life Choices New York.

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To the editor: Yes, improve and reauthorize California’s End of Life Option Act, which allows a mentally competent, terminally ill person to obtain a life-ending drug prescription from a medical provider, which the patient may or may not take.

What kind of person or lawmaker would say this to a terminally ill person who is suffering a long, painful, drawn-out decline:

“You cannot choose to bring this miserable stage of your own life to an end on your own terms. No, you must writhe in pain for however long, while those around you watch helplessly and suffer along with you, until your body finally gives out.”

Stephen Seiferheld May, Los Angeles

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To the editor: It cost my stepfather well over $5,000 to take advantage California’s aid-in-dying law. This is one more way that the privileged have an advantage.

I hope advocates of the law can make it an option for everyone.

Beth Signer, Oceanside


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