Wardlaw: Assisted suicide not the answer to end-of-life care (letter)
As I read the editorial from The Durango Herald regarding the end-of-life bill (assisted suicide), a few comments come to this physician’s mind.
Having graduated from medical school 45 years ago, I have observed that we physicians have not done a good job of helping our patients face death or helping ease the pain that sometimes accompanies the transition. We have the means to relieve pain, and, used appropriately alongside the excellent care of our hospice colleagues, we can make that transition not be days of “an excruciating, protracted demise.” So perhaps our failure to manage care at the end of life well is somewhat responsible for the need that some are expressing to take their own life.
I have concerns about this law because it is unclear about whether there are protections for physicians like myself who would choose not to prescribe the medicines for the suicide. We should counsel and advise and provide all the compassionate care needed short of suicide. There is some concern that legal actions could be taken against physicians who choose not to participate in this action, which goes against their moral, ethical and spirituals beliefs.
Most importantly, there is a value to life even in the waning days that should not be cut short because of one’s own desires not to suffer. I have observed many who understood that in their final days and brought comfort and even pleasant memories to family and friends who were beginning to grieve already.
We are meant to be caring and giving individuals, and we cannot predict the good we may do for someone else who is in our presence as we make our transition. Even under the effects of heavy doses of pain medication, a person may become more aware because they are free of pain and special moments of conversation may occur.
Personally, I believe that God uses those moments, and He ordains when the end should be. This whole issue needs careful thought in light of who we are as spiritual beings. I do not think assisted suicide is the answer.
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