Suicide by Choice Is a Fantasy

Patients near end of life are surrounded by 'invisible coercion': Ben Mattlin

By Liam Carnahan,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 1, 2012 12:41 PM CDT

(Newser) – A proposed law in Massachusetts to make assisted suicide legal has built-in rules to make sure patients aren't coerced into the decision, but journalist and author Ben Mattlin thinks the concept of coercion is murky, dangerous water, he writes in the New York Times. The subject is close to his heart—he was born with a degenerative muscular disease, and has shocked doctors by living for decades beyond his prognosis. But that experience has shown him "how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless."

There are many forms of "invisible coercion," he says, like the "look of exhaustion in a loved one's eyes, or the way nurses and friends sigh in your presence while you're zoned out in a hospital bed." Doctors are worse, because they "feel entitled to render judgments and voice their opinions" about his life and prognosis, even if Mattlin is only visiting for a sinus infection. With so much negativity surrounding patients like him—despite his career, family, and aspirations—maybe assisted-suicide laws should wait until attitudes change. Click to read his full piece, or a counter argument here.

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