Dr. Frederic Gerrish worked more a century ago, but maintained staunch support for this issue.

You recently published on your editorial page the opinion of Dr. Bill Burge (“Maine Voices: Legalized suicide would be medical and moral malpractice,” June 10), who asserted as a physician various arguments against the passage of any “death with dignity” legislation, even for terminally ill patients who may be experiencing acute end-of-life pain.

In your coverage of a “death with dignity” proposal this session in the Maine Legislature, you reported that the Maine Medical Association expressed its reservations.

Each of the above apparently are not aware that Maine’s most famous physician and surgeon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Dr. Frederic Gerrish, wrote a paper in 1907 in which he asserted that the ability of a physician to provide a terminally ill and suffering patient the choice to end their own life was fundamental to the medical practice, and should be available. Dr. Gerrish identified and answered, as a physician, the same arguments that have been asserted against such physician assistance by Dr. Burge and the MMA.

Dr. Gerrish was both a state and national medical figure. He was a president of the Maine Medical Association, first president of the Maine State Board of Health and national president of the American Academy of Medicine and the American Therapeutic Association.

He was an early pioneer in advocating for antiseptic surgical procedures, use of technical advances for medicine such as the microscope, a leader in identifying and proposing solutions to important public health problems and an author and editor of textbooks and important articles in the medical field.

It is ironic that the MMA in particular seemed unaware of the position of its perhaps most renowned member.

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