The right-to-die movement has gained momentum at a time of anxiety about the graying of the population; people who are older than sixty-five represent the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, Canada, and much of Europe. But the laws seem to be motivated less by the desires of the elderly than by the concerns of a younger generation, whose members derive comfort from the knowledge that they can control the end of their lives. Diane Meier, a professor of geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York, and one of the leading palliative-care physicians in the country, told me that “the movement to legalize assisted suicide is driven by the ‘worried well,’ by people who are terrified of the unknown and want to take back control.” She added, “That is not to say that the medical profession doesn’t do a horrible job of protecting people from preventable suffering.” Like most doctors who specialize in palliative care, a field focussed on quality of life for patients with severe and terminal illnesses, she thinks legalizing assisted suicide is unnecessary. “The notion that if people don’t kill themselves they’re going to die on a ventilator in the hospital would be humorous if it weren’t so serious,” she said. She believes that the angst propelling the movement would be diminished if patients had greater access to palliative care and if doctors were more attentive to their patients’ psychological suffering.
Who Has the Right to a Dignified Death? - The New Yorker: