The Daily News recently ran an article (Dec. 12) from the Austin Daily Herald about an elderly southern Minnesota man with Stage 4 lung cancer, who argues that he should have the right to end his life at a time of his choosing through physician-prescribed medication, commonly called physician-assisted suicide (PAS). No humane person can read that article without empathy. But I want to take some time to argue why making PAS legal in Minnesota would be deeply wrong, as well as bad public policy.
Most people who argue in favor of PAS argue it is a compassionate choice for those who are dying in pain. While ending a person’s pain is a compassionate choice, ending a person’s life (including your own) is not. It is telling that the Austin article never mentions the possibility of palliative care; that is, killing the pain, but not the patient. This relatively new branch of medicine has made incredible strides in the past 20 years, and while no one is promised a painless death, the dying process can be managed in ways to make physical pain tolerable.