A sane voice against assisted suicide


Category : Medical Rants

Assisted suicide has, in my mind unfortunately, become a liberal cause.  Massachusetts is voting on a law.  I have previously written about my discomfort with such laws.  But my writing pales compared to this wonderful piece in the NY Times – Suicide by Choice? Not So Fast

I urge everyone to read this beautifully written and argued op-ed, written by a man with life-long severe disability.  These paragraphs all physicians should read regularly:

This is but one of many invisible forces of coercion. Others include that certain look of exhaustion in a loved one’s eyes, or the way nurses and friends sigh in your presence while you’re zoned out in a hospital bed. All these can cast a dangerous cloud of depression upon even the most cheery of optimists, a situation clinicians might misread since, to them, it seems perfectly rational.

And in a sense, it is rational, given the dearth of alternatives. If nobody wants you at the party, why should you stay? Advocates of Death With Dignity laws who say that patients themselves should decide whether to live or die are fantasizing. Who chooses suicide in a vacuum? We are inexorably affected by our immediate environment. The deck is stacked.

Yes, that may sound paranoid. After all, the Massachusetts proposal calls for the lethal dose to be “self-administered,” which it defines as the “patient’s act of ingesting.” You might wonder how that would apply to those who can’t feed themselves — people like me. But as I understand the legislation, there is nothing to prevent the patient from designating just about anyone to feed them the poison pill. Indeed, there is no requirement for oversight of the ingestion at all; no one has to witness how and when the lethal drug is given. Which, to my mind, leaves even more room for abuse.

Comments (1)

Bravo, RCentor. If I have a moment today I'm going to shoot off a quick entry in my blog about MA-2 as well. I share your opposition, but more importantly I share your confusion that this is perceived to be a "liberal" issue. I generally find myself on the left side of political issues–my friends and colleagues would describe it as very left–but I am far out of step with those of my philosophical ilk on this one. I don't think that's because I've veered right on one issue but rather because they've been sold a bill of goods and don't really understand the underlying problem. Best, Billy

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