Sunday, December 2, 2012

Assisted suicide may not bring peace to either terminally ill or their families

November 30, 2012 6:15 am  
This letter is a follow up to your recent (Nov. 16) article on assisted suicide and the Montana Medical Board.
A study was recently released in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal (“Death by request in Switzerland: Posttraumatic stress disorder and complicated grief after witnessing assisted suicide,” B. Wagner, J. Muller, A. Maercker; European Psychiatry 27 (2012) 542-546, available at The study found that 1 out of 5 family members or friends present at an assisted suicide were traumatized. These persons “experienced full or sub-threshold (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) related to the loss of a close person through assisted suicide.”

This study is consistent with what I have observed with my law practice clients whose parents participated in the Washington/Oregon death with dignity acts (assisted suicide). With one client, one branch of the family wanted the parent to use the lethal dose, while the other did not. The parent spent much of his final days traumatized and struggling over the decision of whether or not to kill himself. This was instead of making the best of the time that he had left. My client was also traumatized. In that case, the parent did not use assisted suicide and died a natural death.

With another case, it’s unclear that the parent’s assisted-suicide death was voluntary. My client lives with that memory.

Legal assisted suicide is sold as a peaceful and loving death. It may be anything but.

Margaret Dore, Seattle WA