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In 2016, Colorado voters approved an initiative that allows for physicians to prescribe medical aid-in-dying medication to terminally ill individual.
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In 2016, Colorado voters approved an initiative that allows for physicians to prescribe medical aid in dying medication to terminally ill individuals.

Re: “Language matters in medical aid in dying debate,” Nov. 27 guest commentary.

Kim Callinan writes that “the terms ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘physician-assisted suicide’ should not be used to describe the practice of medical aid in dying. The continued use of these terms is offensive, disrespectful and primitive.”

She is absolutely right. Committing suicide has always had a stigma associated with the person’s inability to deal with the trials of life we all face. This is not in the same league and has absolutely nothing to do with the choice to forgo the suffering connected to cancer, ALS, cardiac failure or so many of the other diseases that will end our lives.

We should also consider striking violent and militaristic words we often see in the obituaries such as “lost his battle with cancer” and “she was always a fighter” and “a valiant struggle with … .” The use of these words contributes to the moral imperative that to do any less makes the person who does not fight, battle and struggle a lesser person — and endure the suffering that goes along with it.

Sid Adelman, Sherman Oaks, Calif.


Kim Callinan suggests the term “suicide” should no longer be used in reference to medically facilitated death. I would like to add that any language that discriminates between people with mental illness and people with medical illness is stigmatizing and highly offense to people with mental illness. The use of disparate language suggests that a person with mental illness values their life differently, or less than, someone with a medical disease, and this is blatantly ludicrous. Any person with mental illness would prefer to live without that illness if given a choice, just as the proponents of physician assisted suicide claim as justification for dying.

Futhermore, both the New Mexico Supreme Court and the New York Court of Appeals have rejected this verbal sleight of hand. As New York’s Judge Angela M. Mazzarelli stated in a decision, “The word ‘suicide’ has a straightforward meaning. … It is traditionally defined as ‘the act or instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally.’ … Whatever label one puts on the act that plaintiffs are asking us to permit, it unquestionably fits that literal description … .”

Annette Hanson, M.D., Perry Hall, Md.

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