Doctors should heal patients, not kill them. Assisted suicide makes us agents of death.

Doctors should heal patients, not kill them. Assisted suicide makes us agents of death.

 

Physician-assisted suicide isn’t about dying on our own terms. Instead, it’s prompting all of us to question whose lives are worth maintaining.

 

This month in The Netherlands, a medical doctor was acquitted for euthanizing an elderly woman against her will.

At first blush, this seems unfathomable, even in a country where euthanasia is legal. But the fact is that a few years prior, she had requested to be euthanized if her dementia worsened — a wish her family felt obligated to honor over and against her more recent protests. In order to inject the lethal drug, the doctor had to secretly sedate her, and her family had to hold her down.

Many proponents of physician-assisted suicide insist that these sorts of euthanasia mishaps will never happen in the United States. Euthanasia — typically by lethal injection — is illegal in America. By contrast, assisted suicide is legal in a handful of states. Doctors write the prescriptions for deadly pills that patients self-ingest. Although advocates contend that assisted suicide is safe from euthanasia’s abuses, nothing could be further from the truth.

Patients can be pressured into death

In a recently published rebuke of the American Academy of Neurology’s 2018 decision to rescind its opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia, a group of neurologists led by Dr. Joseph Masdeu of the Houston Methodist Neurologic Institute warn that, like euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide is also subject to many potential abuses. As an internal medicine physician, I couldn’t agree more. Medical professionals like me have an ethical obligation to make the public aware of the hazards of such practices.

First, it’s not hard to see how the availability of physician-assisted suicide will pressure and coerce the sick, disabled and elderly to end their lives when they become too inconvenient for their loved ones and too costly for society. Consider that patients with neurological disorders often suffer from significant disability and depend on others for daily living. By normalizing the option of death for patients whose lives prove burdensome, patients will feel guilty for not hastening their deaths — something I’ve witnessed in my own medical practice.

Read more at USA Today…