Hugh Gallagher Supported ‘Death With Dignity’
NEW MOBILITY deserves credit for running an ad that invited its readers to sign a petition on the website of my organization, Compassion & Choices, to support death with dignity, even though some of its readers oppose it

[“Assisted Suicide Ad Misleading”]. It’s especially praiseworthy because the piece explaining this decision acknowledged the NEW MOBILITY staff is divided on the issue.

Compassion & Choices abhors discrimination against people with disabilities based on cost or any other reason — by the insurance industry or any other entity. We defend the right of all adults to receive as much or as little medical treatment as they want.

As an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years, I strongly believe in the benefits of palliative care. In fact, studies show palliative care in Oregon improved greatly after the Death with Dignity Act I helped draft took effect. Unfortunately, palliation does not work for everyone. Five to 10 percent of dying patients get no relief from palliative care, according to a founder of the American Alliance of Cancer Pain Initiatives.

The Oregon Death with Dignity Act has multiple safeguards. For example, the law stipulates that “a person who coerces or exerts undue influence on a patient to request medication for the purpose of ending the patient’s life, or to destroy a rescission of such a request, is guilty of a Class A felony.” A Class A felony in Oregon carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. This severe penalty is a strong deterrent. There’s little incentive to influence a person who is in the last phase of their dying. No one has been accused of breaking the law in its 17-year history.

Finally, I need to set the record straight about how my friend and former Compassion & Choices board member Hugh Gallagher, resigned from our board near the end of his life. As readers know, Hugh was a hero of the disability community, and he advocated for death with dignity to the day he died. His resignation letter stated: “It has been an honor to serve on the Compassion Board. I am proud of Compassion’s achievements, its great integrity and the respect it commands.”
Barbara Coombs Lee
President, Compassion & Choices

Assisted Suicide for Disabled Not Supported by Hugh Gallagher