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Concerns about Supreme Court Nominee's Views on End-of-Life Choices

Death with dignity legislation could soon be introduced in Ohio. (Pixabay)
Death with dignity legislation could soon be introduced in Ohio. (Pixabay)
February 8, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio. – Advocates for end-of-life choices are concerned about President Trump's pick for Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch. Medical aid in dying is an option for terminally ill patients at the end of their lives in six states, and similar legislation could be debated in Ohio this year. In 2006, Gorsuch argued against the practice in his book, "The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia."

Founder and executive director of Ohio End of Life Options, Lisa Vigil Schattinger, notes it's the same year Oregon's right-to-die law, the first in the country, survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge.

"Since 2006, other states have adopted laws based on Oregon's model," she said. "So, while it's absolutely a concern about Gorsuch, we feel it could be defended again with a fight."

In Ohio, state Senator Charleta Tavares of Columbus has discussed introducing 'death with dignity' legislation as early as this year.

Gorsuch argues in his book that assisted suicide could open the doors to considering some lives less "valuable" than others.

Kevin Díaz, the national director of legal advocacy with the group Compassion and Choices, explains assisted suicide and euthanasia are far different from medical aid-in-dying laws.

"Medical aid in dying is when a medical professional, a physician, prescribes a life-ending medication to give to a person who is an adult, who is terminally ill, which means six months or less to live, and who will then self-ingest the medication, if and when suffering becomes too great," he explained.

Díaz explains assisted suicide is a term used when people who are not of sound mind are convinced to kill themselves.

Schattinger was with her stepfather in Oregon when he died with the assistance of the Death with Dignity Act in 2014. She says he passed away in peace, a choice she believes should be discussed as an option for the terminally ill in Ohio.

"We feel that it's important to talk to every part of the community - medical societies, political communities - just to raise awareness and bring about a really respectful discussion of a topic that we understand can be very controversial," she added.

Polls are showing growing support for a person's right to die with dignity. A Gallup poll from last year found nearly seven in ten people agreed a terminally ill patient should legally have the right to end his or her life, if requested.

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH