Barriers need to be removed that prevent patients from receiving available treatments for pain and other symptoms — not alleviate the safeguards that protect patients from psychological or financial coercion to choose an untimely death. The goal should not be to legalize physician-assisted suicide but rather to adequately provide available means of care so that patients and their families do not feel the need to consider an early death.
Social acceptance of physician-assisted suicide sends the message that some lives, especially those of elderly, disabled and dependent citizens, have less value, and are not worth living.
The practice of physician-assisted suicide creates a duty to die. Death may become a reasonable substitute to treatment and care as medical costs continue to rise. The patient, and the family members may be encouraged to use this option and be pressed to do so, to alleviate this burden, on the hospital or nursing home, as much as on the one suffering.
Better medical alternatives exist to physician-assisted suicide. However, they are not brought to the light as much as they should, family members need to be more engaged, and aggressive in becoming informed to the resources available. Today's pain management techniques can provide relief for up to 95 percent of patients, thus offering true death with dignity.
Physician-assisted suicide often ignores anxiety, depression, and family problems, which is a legitimate cry for help.
Physician-assisted suicide gives too much power to doctors, threatening patient autonomy by allowing physicians to decide whether a patient lives or dies. This is occurring now in the Netherlands, Europe.
The practice of physician-assisted suicide threatens to destroy the delicate trust relationship between doctor and patient – a relationship based on the patient's belief that his or her physician will pursue the goal of protecting life.
Physician-assisted suicide opens the door to euthanasia. Then, when this boundary is overstepped, where is this going to lead? Where will this mindset go next? Who else will be termed “better off dead?”
"In a society as obsessed with the costs of health care and the principle of utility, the dangers of the slippery slope... are far from fantasy...
Assisted suicide is a half-way house, a stop on the way to other forms of direct euthanasia, for example, for incompetent patients by advance directive or suicide in the elderly. So, too, is voluntary euthanasia a half-way house to involuntary and non-voluntary euthanasia. If terminating life is a benefit, the reasoning goes, why should euthanasia be limited only to those who can give consent? Why need we ask for consent?"
It must be recognized that assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and prejudice that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of society, including health care. Those who will be most vulnerable to abuse, error, or indifference are the poor, minorities, and those who are least educated and least empowered. This risk does not reflect a judgment that physicians are more prejudiced or influenced by race and class than the rest of society - only that they are not exempt from the prejudices manifest in other areas of our collective life.
I sat this past Saturday evening at a ministry event, and listened to a representative from Vermont tell a story of an elderly ladies experience in a nursing home she lived in, that emphasises the truth of the concerns above, since the legalization of physician assisted suicide here in Vermont. She told him how every two weeks for over six months, staff members would approach her and ask if she was interested in having her life end, and if she'd like help by the nurses and doctor's to do it. She finally told them right out to stop coming to her and asking this; that if she was ever interested in ending her life, she would come to them and let them know.
He expressed his dismay, because he had spent six years fighting in Montpelier trying to stop the law legalizing assisted suicide from being passed here in Vermont, and spoke of his sadness in seeing what he has feared coming to pass. I sat listening to this and remembering the years I worked in nursing homes, and knew he was right. I also had spent many years while I was working trying to keep this bill from becoming a law.
When my mother was in a nursing home before the law was passed, a lady in the bed right next to her in the same room was assisted in killing herself, by simply giving a "nothing by mouth" order, and within a week she was dead. Assistance to die was implemented by sidestepping moral questions, and twisting of the orders, to achieve the goal. I saw this, and watched the process with my own eyes, when I came to visit my mother just about every day. Prior to this, I had witnessed several sessions she had with a psychologist who spoke with her about her wishes to die, and how it was achieved, quietly and unnoticed by anyone.
The video below gives some excellent points and concerns that are becoming a reality with this law being passed.
This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.