A letter to the editor at your local publication is a great place to express your thoughts about medical aid in dying. Though printed editions are less common now, letters are also published online where they are easily shared. This makes it a great way to start conversations and build awareness about this issue in Ohio.
How to Write a Letter to the Editor
1. Think about timing. Tie it to a current event or recent article.
Letters to the Editor are generally written in direct response to a recent story or in reaction to a current event. It helps your chances of publication if you can tie it to one of these. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, the current pandemic and the related loss of life and suffering have made many people and news outlets more willing to discuss tough issues around death, including end-of-life planning and medical aid in dying.
2. Find out the word-limit constraint.
Letters to the Editor often have a word limit of around 200 words. Check your local publication’s website for its rules; links to the “submit an editorial” pages for some major Ohio publications can be found to the left. It is also possible to submit a longer Op-Ed (generally a longer opinion piece that appears opposite the editorial page), though these pieces are sometimes reserved for well-known individuals or experts that are not part of the editorial staff. However, if you are personally facing a terminal illness, or have faced a loved one’s terminal illness, you are an expert on the subject and your opinion and thoughts are important.
3. Write your letter. Reach out to us if you need help.
Your personal thoughts and experiences are the most compelling. Everyone’s story is different, but there is always something that another person will be able to relate to. Do not shy away from being very descriptive and specific. Some facts and focus areas that you may want to include within your letter are below. Following that is a sample letter that you can use as a guide to get started (the trickiest part of any writing task.) We are also here to help you share your story if you would like.
Focus Areas- Choose 1 or 2
- Your or a loved one’s personal story facing a terminal illness.
- The peace that this option can bring to those who are suffering, even if they ultimately decide not to use it.
- The concepts of self-determination and autonomy at the end of life that this law would allow.
- The safeguards and protections that are part of every medical aid in dying bill. There have been no cases of abuse reported in the over 20 years since these laws have been passed in states around the country.
- Participation in and use of the law is fully optional by patients and healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.
- Research shows that just having a law leads to more conversations and end-of-life planning between doctors and patients, even those not terminally ill.
Facts- Choose 3 or 4
- One in five Americans have access to medical aid in dying. Ohioans do not.
- A survey completed by Public Policy Polling in May 2018 showed that 69% of Ohio voters, across religious affiliations, supported a medical aid in dying law in Ohio.
- 90% of those in Oregon using the law (over the last 20+ years) have also been enrolled in hospice.
- Two physicians must certify the patient has a terminal illness and is expected to die within six months.
- Advanced age and disability do not qualify as terminal illnesses. The law is not available to those with dementia (who are not mentally competent) or to the elderly (who do not have a terminal diagnosis).
- The person seeking the prescription must be competent and must be able to ingest the medication himself or herself.
Letter to the Editor
I was with my father when he died after having cancer for years. He was treated with chemotherapy and had many surgeries before being told there were no more effective treatments. After enrolling in hospice, he said that he would feel much better knowing that he would be able to control his death if his suffering grew too great. Unfortunately, his doctors and I told him there was nothing we could do because Ohio has not enacted a medical aid in dying law.
In 2019, both Maine and New Jersey passed medical aid in dying laws that allow a terminally ill, mentally capable adult to obtain medical aid in dying. There are now eight states and the District of Columbia with such laws. That means that one in five people in the U.S., when death is certain and imminent, can seek and obtain a prescription that they can take themselves to die peacefully. The laws have many safeguards to insure that there is no coercion and that the person is acting voluntarily. The dying person is in control of whether to seek the prescription, whether to fill it, and whether to use it.
Ohioans should have access to medical aid in dying. Polling in 2018 showed that a large, bipartisan majority of Ohioans favor such legislation, no matter their religious beliefs.