By Dr. Frederick Guida
New York lawmakers are considering a proposal to legalize physician assisted suicide. As a physician I desire to encourage legislators to oppose this dangerous policy.
Proponents often cite unbearable pain as a reason for legalizing assisted suicide, however, data from Oregon shows that unbearable pain does not even make it into the top three reasons that patients choose assisted suicide. Loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in life activities, and loss of dignity are the top three reasons people reported when choosing assisted suicide. Lawmakers must realize that pain can be managed, and a multidisciplinary must be employed in end-of-life care. Offering suicide isn’t necessary.
Some people support assisted suicide only in extreme cases, but this proposal does not reflect that kind of “last resort” approach. It does not require a patient to try hospice or comfort care measures prior to receiving a lethal script. In fact, the proposed law does not even require the patient to be in pain or suffering in any way. Under this bill, assisted suicide would be available to everyone diagnosed with a terminal illness, including patients that may have been misdiagnosed.
What is most alarming to me is the disparity in access to hospice and palliative care services. I practice in a low socioeconomic, rural community. With limited resources, I find it difficult to access adequate palliative care for my patients who need it. I fear that the legislation of assisted suicide will be a coercive push for my patients to kill themselves more often than wealthy individuals because my patients cannot access high quality palliative care.
If New York has a problem with painful or undignified death, we should focus on providing equal access to palliative care. Assisted suicide is not necessary to achieve that goal.
-Dr. Frederick Guida, M.D., Anesthesiologist (Hartsdale, NY)
Source: “Letter: New York should not adopt physician assisted suicide,” BuffaloNews.com