Assisted suicide bill must be rejected

The proposed “End-of-Life Option Act” being considered by the Maryland legislature isolates persons with terminal illness at a time when doctors, nurses and other health team members seek to stand in solidarity with their patients and their families to deliver compassionate quality care (“Retired radio host Diane Rehm describes husband’s ‘agony,’ supports Maryland medically assisted suicide bill,” Feb. 15).

Along with colleagues in medicine and public health and funding from the National Institute of Nursing Research, I have studied patient and family decision making about care and treatment at the end of life for over 20 years and have developed supportive approaches to patients and families during this most vulnerable time of life.The End-of-Life Option Act is wrong on so many important aspects of quality care at the end of life.

First, it ignores the fear of being a burden on family. Our research revealed that many terminally ill patients worry about this. Having a doctor ask patients with limited resources about the desire for a terminal dose of medication may seem like a recommendation to some and an obligation to others.

Second, it is grounded in a false sense of autonomy. The elderly and those with less than college education are more likely to defer to a physician for treatment decisions. It is wrong to assume that a patient who accepts a terminal dose of medication is making an independent decision.

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