Cancer Patients are Suffering From Mental Distress
According to Healthline, research shows more than 80% of oncologists say they frequently see mental health distress in their patients; more than 90% of oncologists agree or strongly agree that mental health has a significant impact on cancer outcomes; approximately 93% of oncologists surveyed say they’ve prescribed antidepressants for patients; 95% of oncologists say they’ve prescribed anti-anxiety drugs as a new treatment for people with cancer.
When asked what types of mental health distress they see most frequently, 83% cited anxiety disorders, and 81% named mood disorders, including depression.
Vulnerable Patients are in Danger
In states where assisted suicide is legal, cancer patients with a prognosis of six months or less to live are eligible to kill themselves with lethal drugs despite this data that indicates cancer patients are likely to be in mental distress. Additionally, a major study of physician prognoses in Chicago revealed that only 20% were accurate in predicting when death would occur. In another study, “No group accurately predicted the length of patient survival more than 50% of the time.”*
One of the top five reasons patients request assisted suicide is that they feel like a burden on family and friends.
The best “safeguard” assisted suicide legislation has to offer these vulnerable patients is a referral for one mental health evaluation to determine whether or not they have the capacity to make medical decisions, not to diagnose or treat any underlying psychiatric disabilities, with a mental health professional who may not know them or their history. That person is the one who signs off on the waiver allowing the patient to take their own life.
Depression can be difficult to diagnose, let alone in one appointment. The research indicates that a significant number of cancer patients may be experiencing mental distress. The supposed “safeguards” in assisted suicide legislation are a weak replacement for the suicide prevention vulnerable people deserve.
*Nicholas A Christakis; Elizabeth B Lamont, “Extent and determinants of error in physicians’ prognoses in terminally ill patients,” West J Med. 2000 May; 172(5): 310–313. https://www. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1070876/ ; Feargal Twomey; Norma O’Leary; Tony Brien, “Prediction of patient survival by healthcare professionals in a specialist palliative care inpatient unit: a prospective study,” Am J Hosp Palliat Care. Apr-May 2008;25(2):139-45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18445863 ; Lorna Ear Forster, MS; Joanne Lynn, MD, “Predicting Life Span for Applicants to Inpatient Hospice,” JAMA Arch Intern Med. 1988;148(12):2540-2543