Articles > Ethics > ElderHope responds to article on physician-assisted suicide

ElderHope responds to article on physician-assisted suicide

Published by Chapster on 2007/11/3 (3278 reads)
The California Progress Report recently posted an article by Richard Ikeda, MD on the refusal of the California Medical Association to endorse physician-assisted suicide (PAD). ElderHope takes issue with the article and has published a response. To read the article, go here. For our comments, continue reading...

The California Medical Association's position is not -- and should not be -- based on counting the number of hands raised in a classroom. The discussion is about more than the flavor of seasoning on popcorn.

Among other aspects of his article that seem biased, the author fails to note the rest of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine's position statement: "Whether or not legalization occurs, AAHPM supports intense efforts to alleviate suffering and to reduce any perceived need for PAD....For physicians practicing in regions where PAD is legal, AAHPM advises great caution before instituting PAD..." This is hardly a ringing endorsement. Indeed, the position is more a recognition that in some states PAD is legal and that it is the moral obligation of the physician to do everything in their power to avoid that extreme by giving the best end-of-life care possible. Read the position statement!

As to the study cited in the Journal of Medical Ethics, their focus was the effect upon certain population groups. The idea of The Slippery Slope deals with more than just the possible impact on certain population groups. It is the general acceptance of suicide and the use of physicians as a means to that end - something that the good doctor seems to have few concerns about. Moreover, in the use of physicians to accomplish the deaths of certain populations, we hardly need the study he cites: We have abundant evidence from our not so distant past.

Let it be said that the position of this comment is not one of meekly tolerating suffering, either. We endorse the use of whatever pain medicine is needed, in the amount needed, to ease suffering even if that leads to death. We do not, however, endorse the use of medications for the purpose of ending the life. While that may seem a semantic difference to those who are biased towards physician-assisted suicide, it is a notable and significant distinction. Hospice physicians understand the distinction completely.

The broader question, the one that does and should give pause to the CMA and all other such organizations is the ethical status of PAD. It is not only the effects of PAD on particular population groups: It is the broad-ranging impact of employing those who have chosen the calling of healing in the instrumentation of killing. The position endorsed by Doctor Ikeda would rob patients, families and their heirs of many opportunities for healing and growth in the days, months and generations that will follow them.

Tags: end-of-life   death   hospice   AAHPM   euthansia   PAD   assisted-suicide  

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