‘Right to die’ runs the risk of becoming a duty to society

Last month, the New York state Court of Appeals dismissed a case filed by three terminally ill plaintiffs asking the court to declare a constitutional right to “aid in dying,” better known as assisted suicide. The judges wrote, “this Legislature … has concluded that an absolute ban on assisted suicide is the most reliable, effective, and administrative means of protecting against its dangers.”

What could those dangers be? More than three decades ago, the three-term governor of Colorado, Richard Lamm, told a group of health care lawyers that the terminally ill elderly have “a duty to die and get out of the way” instead of trying to prolong their lives. Lamm compared the fulfillment of this “duty” to “leaves falling off a tree and forming humus for the other plants to grow up.”

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