Will you offer your own personal opinions and hopes about care for the dying, euthanasia, and palliative care?
It is the hope of this author that by carefully attending to the needs of dying patients and by improving both the art and the science of comfort-care, we will reduce the fear and anxiety which now seems to be driving toward the direction of physician assisted suicide.
I argue against changing our social policies so as to legalize euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. As described above, we have many resources to aid and comfort those who are dying, including the commitment of the health care professions to care for and sustain those who suffer. Reversing our social policies on these issues would add a significant new duty for physicians, not only the duty to support life and relieve pain, but a new duty to also end the life of patients. I am concerned also with the social context for the current push for euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. We are clearly into the age of cost containment and managed care. We are witnesses to a growing cadre of aging citizens and the baby boomers will shortly be headed into their retirement years. Perhaps prescribing and providing a lethal drug is the most efficient and inexpensive way to treat dying patients. I worry that this is a slippery slope. Dr. Carlos Gomez reports that the Netherlands have slipped in clinical practice away from their starting point, from under-reporting to euthanizing patients who were clearly not competent to request it. Perhaps this is the time and the place to recognize a limit to individual autonomy in respect for communitarian values and in protection of the many vulnerable among us.