Saturday, May 23, 2015

response to @wsj op ed piece on assisted suicide 5/23/15

I personally favor the option of an assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.  As I understand it, this writer does not.

The writer points out that many states have not approved assisted suicide. One concern that comes up, and the writer expresses it in this piece, is that health care providers may be put under pressure to terminate expensive patients if physician assisted suicide is allowed.

The missing link here is the physician assisted piece.

The mission of physicians is to save lives.  They take a Hippocratic Oath to this effect.  This is the single most fundamental part of the ethos of physicians.  Why should they be the ones to have responsibility for this delicate procedure?

Why not have a separate profession of people to do this job?  These people would have cross-disciplinary training, e.g.:
  1. some medical so that they can evaluate the seriousness of the patient's condition and administer suicide drugs;
  2. some in psychology so that they can evaluate any need for counseling, both for the patient and for those close to the patient, and administer such counseling;
  3. some legal, so that they can help the patient procure necessary assistance in preparing a will and a living will; getting a health care proxy; arranging for a power of attorney for people to administer finances if the person elects not to commit suicide
  4. some general practical in terms of arranging for care of the patient and any responsibilities the patient has if the patient elects to continue living, but is not able to maintain those responsibilities.  This might reassure many patients and help them feel more hopeful.
Since these people would not be doctors, and presumably financed by some other mechanism than health insurance,  they would not be under pressure from health insurance companies to terminate expensive patients.

I would like to see these assisted suicide ballot efforts changed slightly to include this different vehicle for carrying out wishes of terminal patients.