By Dr. Stanley Bukowski
In the Dec. 14 Buffalo News column Another Voice, the author advocates legalizing “assisted dying” for competent adults with terminal disease. His scenario compares suffering on hospital machines versus peacefully dying by medication at home amidst loved ones.
But assisted dying is really assisted suicide. It is unnecessary, flawed, and dangerous, and it is bad medicine.
The scenario above is a false choice. True palliative care achieves comfort and peace of mind for patients and their families wherever the patient’s needs can be met. It neither intentionally hastens nor delays death. It is true caring. The wish to die indicates that a patient’s needs have not been met. It is a sign of despair. Such outstanding institutions as Calvary Hospital in New York City, dedicated solely to terminal care and eminently successful in providing relief without a hastened death, are “gold standard” resources, along with local hospice programs and independent palliative care physicians. Our final days and months are precious and can bring closure, reconciliation, and resolution precisely because we accept them and receive care and support, choosing to neither extend nor shorten them.
There are indeed problems with assisted suicide where it is legal. The number of U.S. deaths by assisted suicide, though small, is growing yearly. Yet advocates are calling for loosened restrictions on it. Look at Oregon’s House bill 3337 (2015), state Senate bill 893 (2017), and House bill 3332 (2019). Cumulatively, they would: remove the requirement that the patient be dying from terminal illness; permit a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, rather than a doctor, to assist a suicide; and allow a designated person to administer the dose to the patient. Read: euthanasia. There is indeed a slippery slope.
Our nearest geographic and cultural neighbor, Canada, legalized not just assisted suicide, but outright euthanasia in 2016. For 2020, Statistics Canada estimates 296,000 total deaths and Health Canada reported 7,595 euthanasia deaths. That is 2.5% of all deaths, up from about 1% in 2017. Rates are still increasing. And the 2019 Truchon decision by the Quebec Superior Court struck down the requirement that the patient have terminal illness. Does anyone well-informed believe it can’t happen here?
Oppose assisted suicide in New York. It is bad medicine. Demand excellent palliative care for all New Yorkers.
Source: “Letter: Responding to piece about assisted dying” BuffaloNews.com