Tag Archives: physician-assisted suicide

Albuquerque Journal: Physician-Assisted Suicide Too Risky

Elderly holding hands

Source: Albuquerque Journal

By Dr. Gregg Schmedes

Amidst a surprise presidential election, our neighbors to the north have approved physician-assisted suicide, by a margin of 2-to-1. While I applaud the intention of Coloradans to relieve suffering, let’s examine what they’ve actually done.

Physician-assisted suicide allows terminally ill patents to ask a doctor to prescribe them a lethal dose of sleeping pills. The danger of physician-assisted suicide lies in the financial benefits enjoyed by those involved in somebody’s death.

For example, Stephanie Packer, a terminally ill Californian and mother of four, recently pursued chemotherapy treatment from her insurer at the request of her doctor. She was denied. Instead the insurer offered a $1.20 co-pay for a handful of life-ending pills. If physician-assisted suicide comes to New Mexico, let’s expect our hospitals and insurers to follow suit.

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Washington Times: Physician-Assisted Suicide Often Results from Financial Coercion


Source: Washington Times

– – Sunday, July 5, 2015

Earlier this year, legislation was introduced to the D.C. Council that would legalize physician-assisted suicide in our nation’s capital for an adult patient diagnosed with a terminal condition and less than six months to live. Although this initiative has been introduced in 24 states this year (not passing in any so far), its passage in the District of Columbia this year risks setting a dangerous precedent for the rest of the nation.

Self-determination and pain relief are the primary arguments by proponents of physician-assisted suicide. These principles of autonomy and beneficence are clearly important in discussions at the end of life. But can this specific piece of legislation protect those who need it the most, such as those with mental illness, and those easily subject to coercion, such as seniors? As a practicing physician for the past 25 years and based on the experience of similar practices around the world, I have serious concerns with this bill.

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Physician-Assisted Suicide Hurts the Vulnerable

Stock Photo

Source: Al Jazeera America

In the past year, lawmakers in two dozen states have put controversial end-of-life bills up for debate. Across the country, there is growing support to allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription pill, but only five states now allow medically assisted suicide. In California, a bill that could legalize medically assisted suicide is making its way through the state Legislature. Stephanie Packer, who is battling a terminal lung disease, says she thinks passing it would be a huge mistake.

In 2012, after suffering a series of debilitating lung infections, a doctor diagnosed me with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease that causes a hardening of the skin and, in some cases, other organs. Given the progression of my disease, my doctor told me that I had three years to live.

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U-T San Diego: Physician-assisted suicide bad for medicine


Andrew D. Sumner: Physician-assisted suicide wrong, dangerous for society

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Source: The Morning Call

April 24, 2015

By Andrew D. Sumner

Senate Bill 549 to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Pennsylvania has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As a cardiologist, I read the bill with great concern. I have cared for terminally ill patients and seen the great courage, dignity and grace with which patients have successfully faced sickness and death. If passed, SB 549 to legalize physician-assisted suicide will be a great danger to physicians, to patients and to society.

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide is dangerous for physicians. Giving doctors the power to deliberately end the lives of their patients will inevitably redefine the nature of the doctor-patient relationship and will destroy essential trust and confidence.

Physician-assisted suicide is the easy option for a busy, stressed or frustrated physician. It also gives too much power to the physician. He or she would become judge, jury and assistant executioner. A physician could convince a patient that this is a reasonable step in just the way they describe their diagnosis and prognosis.

The American Medical Association in its code of ethics highlights the dangers of physician-assisted suicide: “Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as a healer, would be difficult to control, and would pose serious societal risks.”

Physician-assisted suicide is also dangerous for patients. The “right to die” will become the “duty to die” for senior citizens. Not wanting to be a burden, the elderly will take their own lives. Most people commit suicide due to depression. Depression is extremely common but treatable in the terminally ill.

Despite these facts, no independent mental evaluation is required prior to physician-assisted suicide. Most alarming is that in an economically challenged health care system, the cheapest form of health care for any end-stage illness is a handful of lethal medications.

Finally, physician-assisted suicide is dangerous for society. It creates a slippery slope.

In Europe, countries have slid from physician-assisted suicide to voluntary euthanasia, to nonvoluntary euthanasia and then to involuntary euthanasia. The “right” to die was given to the terminally ill, then to the chronically ill, the disabled, and finally to those not ill at all.

So-called safeguards do not in reality work. The Pennsylvania bill mandates that a consultant review the recommendation of the attending physician. This safeguard offers little protection because studies show that physicians only get a second opinion from other physicians who they know will endorse their decision about physician-assisted suicide.

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would not give patients the right to die but would give physicians the right to kill.

A better alternative is to train more palliative-care physicians, insure adequate pain and symptom control at the end of life, encourage better identification and treatment of depression, promote hospice, and mobilize faith communities and others to provide emotional support to struggling patients and families.

H.L. Mencken summed it up, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide is wrong. The evidence is clear. It is just too dangerous.

Andrew D. Sumner is a cardiologist who lives in Upper Saucon Township.
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