Dignity is not served by assisted suicide. Palliative care can eliminate suffering.

The assisted suicide debate ultimately distracts medical professionals like me from pursuing dignified health care options at the end of life. I wholeheartedly believe Minnesota can become the hub of innovative palliative care and hospice care. Granting the “right” of patients to receive pills that kill misses the mark (“I have ALS, and I hope for a dignified death,” Sept. 24).

I recently testified before the Minnesota House Health and Human Services Policy Committee’s public hearing on a bill to legalize assisted suicide — the so-called “End-of-Life Options Act” (HF 2152). I was heartened to see the diverse group of individuals, both locally and nationally, who care so deeply about providing excellent comfort and support to those living with disabilities, or terminal and chronic illness. These individuals stood in opposition to this dangerous bill that undermines quality ethical health care for all Minnesotans.

This legislation is important to me and countless colleagues — physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, hospice nurses, social workers, spiritual care and integrative health and healing practitioners. We wake up every day with passion to provide patients excellent symptom support and comfort. Together, we achieve peace by optimizing patients’ five domains of pain — physical, emotional, social, spiritual and familial. This is the medical standard that health care professionals are currently held to in Minnesota…

If HF 2152 becomes law, the new medical standard will mandate that all physicians and nonphysicians who deal with potentially terminal illnesses advise patients about the “treatment option” of ending their life.

This imposition on the practice of health care will create further distrust between patients and provider who would hold the prescribing or referring power over a patient’s life and death instead of their care. Patients will no longer ask, “Are you trying to kill me?” Instead, they would be justified in emphatically accusing the provider, “You are trying to kill me!”

Read more at the StarTribune…

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