, Salem, MA

Election Forum

October 30, 2012

Column: A physician's perspective on Question 2


Furthermore, although proponents claim the bill offers a compassionate option, it is actually constructed in such a way to make the act of suicide incredibly isolating. The bill does not require any family members or next of kin be notified of a patient’s decision to kill herself. A spouse or relative struggling with the knowledge of a loved one’s diagnosis could be left further dealing with a suicide. But perhaps the most disturbing element in the proposed legislation is that no one (no witnesses, no medical personnel) need be present at the time of ingestion of this lethal dose of barbiturates. The lack of oversight opens the door to abuse of the sick, elderly, poor and disabled, not to mention myriad other concerns if the drugs get into the wrong hands.

The real fallacy of this bill is that it presents suicide as simply one option among many as patients navigate through the choices surrounding a terminal diagnosis. However, the idea that prescribing lethal medications for our sickest patients to kill themselves alone is just another option is certainly not the understanding of the vast majority of physicians who take an oath to “Do no harm.” Most of us realize that in enabling a patient’s suicide, we are corrupting the very foundation of medicine and changing the way physicians and patients understand each other’s roles. (The Massachusetts Medical Society and American Medical Association both oppose physician-assisted suicide.)

The practice of medicine involves meeting patients at their most vulnerable times — they often feel stripped of their dignity and come to us physically and spiritually naked, scared, and sometimes alone. As physicians, we recognize their trepidation, embarrassment and sadness, but acknowledge their humanness as they sit before us. We deal with their bodily fluids, foul smells, physical wasting, raw anguish, and yet we recognize the person in front of us. We meet them where they are and try to offer them some treatment or care that re-establishes their dignity — perhaps in an entirely new way. Palliative care, the branch of medicine that offers care to those with chronic or terminal illnesses, seeks to treat the whole person. It attempts to heal spiritual, mental and, where possible, physical processes that cause the patient suffering. Those within palliative care support the whole person and often guide them toward a peaceful end at the time of natural death. This bill does not require a palliative care referral to discuss options of care.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Election Forum

Local News
  • Ex-Market Basket boss wants to buy company

    July 24, 2014

  • Court finds Danvers nursing home at fault DANVERS -- The estate of an elderly woman who died after a fall and weeks of neglect at a Danvers nursing home has won a $14.5 million verdict in a wrongful death and negligence case. A Middlesex Superior Court jury awarded the estate of Genevieve Ca

    July 24, 2014

  • chism2 [Duplicate] Chism arraigned in second attack

    BOSTON -- When the woman came out of the bathroom, accused murderer Philip Chism was standing a foot in front of her. He put his hands around the clinician's neck, started choking her and pushed her up against a cinder block wall, a prosecutor said.

    July 24, 2014 3 Photos 7 Stories

  • 140723_SN_DLE_PROTESTERS4 Danvers Market Basket forced to toss food

    DANVERS -- Cars peppered the Market Basket intersection Wednesday afternoon with honks supporting grocery chain workers, who held signs calling for the reinstatement of fired CEO Arthur T. Demoulas. But the latest development in the grocery chain spe

    July 24, 2014 5 Photos 6 Stories

  • Scuba diver found off Marblehead identified MARBLEHEAD -- The scuba diver who died in an apparent drowning Tuesday off the coast of Marblehead was identified Wednesday as 58-year-old Gregory Cole of Westfield. The Essex District Attorney's Office said the state medical examiner's office will c

    July 24, 2014