Two Doctors comment on assisted suicide

  With less than two days to the US Presidential Election and the assisted suicide ballot in Massachusetts, two doctors speak out against the move.Physician-assisted suicide is not a right. It's a wrong.

Ira Byock
 
The following letter by Ira Byock was published in the New York Times on November 4, 2012.
 
Ben Mattlin ("Suicide by Choice? Not So Fast," Op-Ed, Nov. 1) shows so well that people who are disabled or frail do not have to choose death to become dignified; they already are.
 
My job as a physician is to ensure that people can see their inherent dignity reflected in they way they are cared for. 
 
The "right to die" is just a slogan. No right to suicide can be found in any social compact. 
 
People do have a right to expect that their doctors will be well trained in pain management, skilled in communication and in counseling them through the most difficult times in life.
 
And we have a right to expect that Medicare and insurance companies will not force us to give up effective treatments for our medical conditions in order to receive hospice care for our comfort and our families' support. 
 
Physician-assisted suicide is not a right. It's a wrong. 
IRA BYOCK
College Station, Tex., Nov. 1, 2012 
The writer, the director of palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is the author of "The Best Care Possible: A Physician's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life."
 
Those who are not dying can be lured to assisted suicide
 
I am a cancer doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Oregon's assisted-suicide law applies to patients predicted to have less than six months to live. This does not necessarily mean that such patients are dying.
 
In 2000, I had a cancer patient who had been given a terminal diagnosis by another doctor of six months to a year to live. This was based on her not being treated for cancer. At our first meeting, she told me that she did not want to be treated, and that she wanted to opt for what our law allowed - to kill herself with a lethal dose of barbiturates.
 
I did not and do not believe in assisted suicide. I informed her that her cancer was treatable and that her prospects were good. But she wanted "the pills." She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me. On the third or fourth visit, I asked her about her family and learned that she had a son. I asked her how he would feel if she went through with her plan. Shortly after that, she agreed to be treated, and her cancer was cured.
 
Several years later she saw me in a restaurant and said, "Dr. Stevens, you saved my life."
 
For her, the mere presence of legal assisted suicide had steered her to suicide.
 
I urge the citizens of Massachusetts to vote no on Question 2.
 
Dr. Kenneth Stevens
 
 
Sherwood, Ore. 

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