Reasons to Reject Physician Assisted Suicide

Reasons to Reject Physician Assisted Suicide

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are increasingly being legalized and primarily involve patients with cancer. Oncologists who care for persons with advanced, terminal cancer and who practice in jurisdictions where PAS/physician aid in dying (PAS/PAD) is legal now face individual decisions whether to endorse and/or participate in the practice. This editorial distills the arguments against PAS/PAD and the adverse implications it has for oncology professionals and persons with advanced, terminal cancer. First, we acknowledge the progress that has been made in end-of-life care in recent decades. Second, we focus on the reality that PAS/PAD is much less about physical pain and suffering than it is about the desire to have the control to end one’s life.  Third, we consider the un- intended or unforeseen consequences of legalizing PAS/PAD, including decreased physician professionalism, the possibility of error, a diminished physician-patient relationship, and a slippery slope toward the practice of euthanasia…

Oncologists are advocates for their patients living with cancer. The lethality of cancer, the stigma of cancer, and the high cost of cancer care already challenge that advocacy. The oncologist’s duty to patients with advanced, terminal cancer is to deal with extreme distress, to advise against harmful choices, to mobilize needed resources, to overcome barriers, and to provide dependable care with continuing support for patients and caregivers. In short, the professional duty is “to cure sometimes, relieve often, and to console always.” Terminally ill patients with cancer need from their clinicians unwavering support for their psychosocial needs throughout the natural course of their terminal illness, rather than the option of PAS/PAD…

Read the entire Journal of Oncology Practice article here…