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Sanders Only Presidential Candidate In Support Of Assisted-Suicide For Terminally Ill

BY DANIEL GAITAN | daniel@lifemattersmedia.org

Bernie Sanders remains the only major presidential candidate who has voiced support for physician-assisted suicide this election season.

In February, the Vermont senator said that terminally ill patients in pain should have the right to end their lives on their own terms. He spoke during a “Seniors Decide Forum” hosted by the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, a coalition including AARP, the Alzheimer’s Foundation and the American Society on Aging.

“We have to be extremely careful how these decisions are made,” Sanders said via Skype.  “A human being is in a situation where they are going to see their life end in a short period of time, where they are suffering, where they choose no longer to be alive. I think they have the right to make that decision for themselves.”

The self-described democratic socialist is running against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. Clinton, when asked about the controversial practice during a recent CNN Town Hall, did not take a firm stance on the issue.

Instead, Clinton called so-called “Death with Dignity” a “crucial issue” that people deserve to understand from their own ethical, religious, faith-based perspective.

“I don’t have any easy or glib answer for you,” Clinton told the 81-year-old cancer patient who asked the question. “I thank you so much for raising this really important, absolutely critical question that we’re all going to have to do some thinking about.”

Physician-assisted suicide is legal in only a handful of states, including Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Montana. California Gov. Jerry Brown was the latest governor to sign a “right-to-die” proposal into law in October. Legislatures in Maryland and Arizona are debating similar bills.

No Republican presidential candidates have voiced support for the practice.

Opposition From American Medical Association

Despite calls for legalization from a growing number of proponents and others who came to support physician-assisted suicide in the wake of the high-profile death of Brittany Maynard, the American Medical Association remains firmly opposed to such policy.

The Chicago-based AMA is the nation’s largest organization of physicians and represents nearly 200,000 doctors, medical students and residents. Its policy remains unmoved amid a national debate regarding the risks and benefits of physician-assisted suicide.

“It is understandable, though tragic, that some patients in extreme duress – such as those suffering from a terminal, painful, debilitating illness – may come to decide that death is preferable to life,” according to an AMA statement sent to Life Matters Media. “However, allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Advocates say that physician-assisted suicide is compatible with modern medical ethics and should be more accessible. Peg Sandeen, executive director of the Death with Dignity National Center in Oregon, told LMM that the attention focused on Maynard’s decision reflects increasing support among Americans for “Death with Dignity” laws.

– Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore via WikiMedia Commons.

See also: Clinton Proposes Tax Break For Caregivers