And assisted suicide legislation also lends itself to sloppiness on the part of doctors—a patient whom you help kill is not going to be alive to complain about informed consent, pain, or any of the other problems that often arise.
These real-world problems are made even worse by the fact that the supposedly lethal doses administered for suicide are not always sufficient for the task. This has been documented in countries where doctor-prescribed death has been allowable for some time. The Times article lists some of the ways an assisted suicide can “go wrong”:
Patients vomit up the pills they take. They don’t take enough pills. They wake up instead of dying. Patients in [a study from the Netherlands] vomited up their medications in 7 percent of cases; in 15 percent of cases, patients either did not die or took a very long time to die — hours, even days; in 18 percent, doctors had to intervene to administer a lethal medication themselves, converting a physician-assisted suicide into euthanasia.
Last year, a column in the Hartford Courant asked, “To what fate are we subjecting the weakest of Connecticut citizens when well-intentioned advocates portray drugs as an easy street to ending difficulty and pain?”
And the Times article noted that the people who actually commit suicide with the help of a doctor are most often
…well-off, well-educated people, typically suffering from cancer, who are used to controlling everything in their lives — the top 0.2 percent. And who are the people most likely to be abused if assisted suicide is legalized? The poor, poorly educated, dying patients who pose a burden to their relatives.
Doctors are supposed to guard life: “first, do no harm.” They are trained to lift their patients to a better life, not push them to an early grave.
When we abandon these positions, and allow practicing doctors to play the role of grim reaper, the weakest among us are sure to suffer. At stake are the lives of innocent human beings who do not deserve to be subjected to what may well be an excruciating death. Suffering patients need understanding, counseling, and sound medical treatment, not encouragement to kill themselves and free up another hospital bed.
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