07 Apr Oppose euthanasia – Opinion – capecodtimes.com – Hyannis, MA
As of today, only Oregon, Vermont and Washington have legalized doctor-assisted suicide. If state Rep. Louis Kafka of Stoughton has his way, Massachusetts will become the fourth.
A bill Kafka has filed in the state Legislature would give a terminally ill patient the right to ask his or her doctor to prescribe a fatal dose of medication. We hope the Legislature allows it to die.
After all, a very similar ballot initiative was rejected by the commonwealth’s voters just two years ago.
Kafka introduced this bill once before in 2013, just months after voters rejected the ballot measure. There was no real consideration in the Legislature then, and there should be none now.
Supporters of the bill said that a terminally ill patient, before requesting a fatal dose of meds, would have to seek counseling to discount depression or other mental health issues, and a doctor would need to determine that the patient has fewer than six months to live. The request for the life-ending prescription would have to be witnessed by two people who know the patient to be of sound mind.
They argue that the landscape has since been changed by the highly visible campaign by Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old Californian who happened to be beautiful, social media savvy and dying of brain cancer. With a doctor’s assistance, she took her life this past November after a months-long campaign to inform the public about her day-to-day struggle for wellness and dignity.
Now popular NPR host Diane Rehm is doing the same following her husband’s choice to die of starvation rather than face another excruciating day with Parkinson’s disease. As Rehm told The Washington Post, “He could not use his hands. He could not feed himself or bathe himself or even use the toilet.” Yet as medical staff know, starvation is its own form of excruciating pain.
What few seem to realize is that as many as 40 percent of terminally ill cancer patients suffer from clinical depression.
In addition, thousands of concerned doctors, nurses, hospice workers, religious leaders and citizens opposed Question 2 in 2012.
For example, the Massachusetts Medical Society, a statewide professional association, still opposes physician-assisted suicide.
Dr. Richard Aghababian, president of the society, said in a press release in 2012 that the organization’s stand against Question 2 was based on the idea that physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer.
He also said that predicting a person’s end of life within six months is difficult, as such predictions can be inaccurate.
The Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, the state’s largest organization of family physicians, joined the society and the Massachusetts Osteopathic Society in urging voters to defeat Question 2.
“The role of family physicians is to provide compassionate, high quality health care to the all patients, in each stage of life,” said Dr. Joseph Gravel, president of the academy, in a press release. “This certainly includes end-of-life care. It is clear that we need to continue to work to provide those suffering from serious illnesses, depression, and other conditions that can lead to hopelessness highly effective palliative and hospice treatments that are now available.
“Using the blunt instrument of a ballot initiative in which the voter only has two choices — yes or no — to decide what a physician can or cannot do in such a nuanced, complex area of medical practice is a disservice to citizens of the commonwealth, our patients and our own families.”
Gravel said the state should enhance palliative and hospice care programs, which are chronically underfunded and underutilized.
Improving hospice, palliative and other end-of-life care options should be the priority — not promoting physician-assisted suicide.