I have no doubt that proponents of physician-assisted suicide are well-meaning, but they are tragically misguided. To touch upon just three of the many problems with physician-assisted suicide:

According to psychiatric experts, the vast majority of people requesting suicide are suffering from treatable depression and no longer want to kill themselves once their underlying depression is resolved. “Once the depression lifts and people can think more clearly, the therapists say, those who were determined to kill themselves are thankful to be alive, despite their pain or grim prognosis,” Daniel Goleman reported in The New York Times on Dec. 4, 1991.

When physician-assisted suicide becomes the law, it limits real health care options for all but the very wealthy. Treatments that can actually improve a patient’s condition will be denied by insurers in favor of the cheapest “treatment” of all – eliminating the patient.

Stephanie Packer, a terminally ill mother of four from California, recently traveled to Maine to advocate for other dying patients. After California’s physician-assisted suicide law went into effect last June, Stephanie’s insurance company changed their minds about paying for the life-extending treatment her doctors had been fighting for – but they did, she said, offer to provide her with a lethal prescription for a $1.20 co-pay, as reported April 4 in the Portland Press Herald and on WGME.

Physician-assisted suicide destroys the doctor-patient relationship, as doctors now become agents of death, rather than comforters and healers. An excerpt from the position statement on assisted suicide of the Association of Northern California Oncologists and the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California says: “Under the pretense of providing compassion, the physician is relieved of his or her primary responsibility to the patient – to safeguard life and to provide comfort to the suffering. It is the ultimate patient abandonment.”

Linda Milliken

Gray