Control over timing, manner of death is not, nor should it be, goal of medicine


As a palliative care physician helping patients and families face the end of life on a daily basis, I know that physician-assisted suicide will not help the majority who are fighting against all odds, to live “as well as they can for as long as they can.”

…Much of the public is fearful of losing control, being abandoned and suffering in their dying days.  No wonder the popular support for physician-assisted suicide as a solution.

But assisted suicide does not address the majority of needs of patients and families as they face the end of life. If made legal, assisted suicide can easily move from the option of last resort to an option considered much earlier in the end of life journey, especially if other options are not available or affordable.

There are several fully legal methods to relieve suffering and hasten a person’s death that many do not take advantage of. Unfortunately, there is also much fear and misunderstanding about these approaches, as well as the general benefit of palliative care and hospice.

The American College of Physicians statement opposing opposing assisted suicide concludes: “Society’s goal should be to make dying LESS, not MORE, medical. Physician-assisted suicide is neither a therapy nor a solution to difficult questions raised at the end of life … Control over the manner and timing of a person’s death has not been and should not be a goal of medicine.”

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