The “Aid in Dying” legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy began last week to allow New Jersey adults whose doctors claim they have fewer than six months to live the right to request a lethal dose of medication. Some of the advocates for assisted suicide include Melissa Wilcox, who attended Gov. Murphy’s signing of the bill and is living with terminal lung cancer, and her sister Laurie Wilcox.
In a recent Star-Ledger article, the sisters noted that they became advocates when they watched their mother die very painfully from lung cancer five years ago. While I am sympathetic to the Wilcox family, they are not representative of the typical patient who will request a physician end their life. The data is clear on this topic: the majority of individuals who request physician assisted suicide are not in immense pain.
In Oregon, where physician assisted suicide is legal, only 22 percent of patients who died between 1998 and 2009 by assisted suicide were in pain or afraid of being in pain. When patients have been asked why they are seeking assisted suicide, they do not report physical pain, but psychological distress – such as hopelessness, depression, and fear of loss of autonomy.
Dutch researchers followed 138 terminally ill cancer patients and found that half of those who requested assisted suicide were depressed, and that depressed patients were four times more likely to request assisted suicide. Similarly, a 2016 study in JAMA Psychiatry showed 52 percent of patients previously attempted suicide, and 24 percent had been institutionalized for psychiatric problems in the past. This mirrors traditional suicide, where psychologically distressed individuals are much more likely to commit suicide.
Read more at NJ.com…