In places like Oregon, the state of Washington, and the Netherlands where assisted suicide is legal, doctors are the ones who have to help with the killing. Many do not like the idea. It violates their mission of healing and turns them into executioners of their patients. Many physicians express concern that the laws do not provide enough protection for patients, especially depressed ones.
Both the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association are on the record against physician-assisted suicide.
At the International Symposium on Assisted Suicide last month in Washington, DC, doctors from all over the world met to fight against physician-assisted suicide.
Assisted suicide violates a doctor’s oath of healing and doing no harm:
When a patient says, “Help me, doctor,” he is assuming that his doctor is on the side of his life. Doctors need to have a degree of humility and remember their Hippocratic Oath, that they should use no medications to cause death even when asked.*
Euthanasia kills the patient twice – once when we say, “Yes, your life is not worth living,” and then when we help him die.*
Our argument was that the law was unnecessary and dangerous. You kill pain, not the patient.**
Assisted suicide laws pressure on our patients:
The right to die can easily become the duty to die. **
Many say that the Oregon law has “careful safeguards” and there is no pressure on vulnerable persons to end their lives. The fact that people in Oregon are carrying around cards that say, “Do not euthanize me” shows they feel under pressure.*
Doctors question the laws themselves:
The idea that you are better off dead is belief-based. There is not one shred of evidence that proves you are better off dead. The major change is that we the living no longer have to deal with that person’s misery.
Do you want to trust the government with end-of-life decisions? Think about the IRS and the Canadian Revenue Service running your death with no chance to appeal their decisions.*
Why is the law aimed at people who have only six months to live? Why are only doctors turned into the judges and executioners in these cases? Why are just overdoses of sleeping pills used? Injections would be more efficient. Some people have lived up to eleven days after an overdose.
In 1960 health care took up 5% of the gross national product. By 2007 it was 17%, and by 2017 it will be 20%. The majority of this money is spent on the last six weeks of life. Many feel the most expensive time of life is also expendable.
The Oregon health care plan will not pay for chemotherapy, radiation or surgery if there is less than a 5% chance of being alive in five years. This was the problem in the Barbara Wagner case, where they would pay for her suicide but not her cancer treatment. What right does the Oregon health care plan have to offer people physician-assisted suicide? ***
People who make up these policies are often physicians who have an agenda and work their way up in political systems. The phrase “physician-assisted death” better describes the essence of the process than “physician-assisted suicide.”*
Assisted Suicide laws do not have sufficient safeguards:
Under some laws, doctors do not have to assist suicides, but anyone with a license can do it. Today you are allowing “philosopher-assisted suicides.”
Many in the Netherlands regret physician-assisted suicide. The physicians there are falsifying death certificates. Patients are left unprotected while believing they have acquired a new right.*
There is a shroud of secrecy around physician-assisted suicide. The doctors cannot be sued and they are falsifying death certificates.***
If you look at the data in the Oregon experience with assisted suicide, there has been an incremental increase in the number of cases. We are seeing an erosion of information in Oregon. In 1998, for example, there was a 17-page average report on each case, and psychological referrals were done 20% of the time. In 2009, the reports were down to five pages and psychological referrals were only 3%.
The records that are being kept are insufficient. In 145 assisted suicide cases in 1990, the records note, “Discussing the issue with the patient would have done more harm than good.” Among the Dutch population, one-third believe it is okay for old people “who are tired of living” to be given assisted suicide. All of this is annotated.***
The House of Lords looked into the experience of the Netherlands and concluded it was impossible to insure that all acts of euthanasia were voluntary. **
* Dr. Margaret Cottle, palliative care physician and instructor, University of British Columbia, Canada
** Dr. Peter Saunders, The Care Not Killing Organization, United Kingdom
***Dr. William Toffler, National director, Physicians for Compassionate Care, USA