We talk a lot about physician-prescribed death in this publication, and with good reason. But little is as convicting or powerful as the testimony of physicians who are extremely concerned about the rise of patient-killing.
From The Wall Street Journal:
"I am an oncologist/hematologist who has been practicing in California, primarily at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, for 39 years. It has been my privilege to have treated and cared for more than 16,000 patients with cancer or blood diseases and to have provided pain relief and comfort for the dying.
"I am also one of six concerned physicians who, along with the American Academy of Medical Ethics, have sued in a California Superior Court to try to block as unconstitutional the state’s Physician Assisted Suicide law, which went into effect on June 9. More recently, a group of doctors and health-care professionals in Vermont joined a lawsuit filed July 19 to try to block the way that state’s 2013 assisted suicide law is being interpreted and misapplied."
The concern with the way the law is "being interpreted and misapplied" is this: "The law does not require an attending physician to refer the patient for psychological assessment." So even if you believe that killing a patient is the most "compassionate" course of action, there is currently no screening process in California to prevent coercion or detect other mental conditions that may lead a person to wish death upon themselves.
The author continues:
"On the day that physician-assisted suicide was legalized, my hospital and the other local hospitals announced that they were opting out and would not facilitate the killing of any patients. Some local hospices informed me that they would continue to give palliative care, instead of helping patients kill themselves.
"Killing is never medical care. There is no circumstance when any compassionate, competent physician would prescribe a deadly drug to any patient. If 'medical practice' has any meaning, it definitely does not include using drugs to willfully kill a patient or for a physician and pharmacist to supply a lethal drug so that a patient can kill himself."
We repeat: "Killing is never medical care." This is, in fact, why the abortion debate is often wrapped up in the personhood of the unborn child; if the unborn child is a person, then "terminating" it is killing it, which disqualifies it as "medical care."
Let's return to a comment above, that some believe that "killing a patient is the most 'compassionate' course of action."
We've heard that time and time again, along with the "death with dignity" rhetoric.
Over at the Regina Leader-Post, Brett Salkeld talks a little bit about this concept of compassion, and how incompatible it truly is with killing patients:
"While public debates and court cases tend to be won on the most difficult cases, we worry that once suicide has been deemed the answer to the suffering of some it will be nearly impossible to deny that it can be the answer to the suffering of others. None of us wants to be in the position to tell someone that her or his suffering is not up to the standard that we set for assisted suicide.
"But we must also admit that most of us are not simply against assisted suicide because of the potential for it to become much more common than imagined in initial public discussion. We are also against assisted suicide in the hardest cases, in those cases where the suffering is undeniably immense. And we would continue to be against it even if we believed that safeguards could be put in place to prevent the expansion of assisted suicide. Why?"
Salkeld goes on to argue that if we decide to end the lives of those who are suffering, we actively lose out on an opportunity to develop compassion in ourselves. His analogy for this is the integration of severely disabled students in classrooms, which may not teach the disabled students math or English, but certainly teaches other students about living with and near those who are suffering. In the same way, if we banish the infirm, elderly, or otherwise disabled to death, we will struggle to learn how to extend compassion to those who are suffering in our day-to-day lives.
The whole post is certainly worth reading.