I strongly object to the inflammatory headline on the front page of the June 16 Portland Press Herald: “Emotional debate, then split vote on suicide bill.” The word “SUICIDE” then appears in large print on the back page of the section (A8).

“Suicide” is a word usually reserved for describing the action of killing oneself by a person mentally ill, usually in the throes of clinical depression. The use of the word “suicide” in the context of a discussion about end-of-life care options is often a political choice that takes sides, used by those opposing “death with dignity” laws.

It stirs the emotions of those who know little about mental illness and suicide, have limited experience with terminal illness and hospice, and know little about how death-with-dignity laws work in Portland, Oregon, or elsewhere, where there are safeguards in place to protect terminally ill people.

All of us can argue about the value of life, religion, God’s will, a rightly formed conscience, the value of suffering, self-determination, morality and whether we as humans, when in our right mind, can have the option to choose the manner of our oncoming death.

Another issue is whether those opposed to death-with-dignity laws have the right to close off that option to others in a country that values the separation of church and state.

Words matter! The use of terms like “suicide” or “euthanasia” needs to be avoided in discussions about the right to die.

We are not Europe. Most of us, whether in Oregon, Vermont or Maine, would not vote for a “suicide bill,” assisted or otherwise, but many of us could thoughtfully consider end-of-life care options – and a death that some would consider dignified – worth discussing and considering.

Again, words matter.

Judith Church Tydings

South Thomaston