Several bills have been proposed to legalize physician assisted suicide in Connecticut. The Connecticut Right to Life Corporation has some serious concerns regarding the care and safety of patients who would be vulnerable – the chronically ill, disabled, and elderly. Reputable state medical societies, cancer centers such as Sloan Kettering, the AMA, the American College of Physicians, the nation’s largest medical specialty society share the same concerns and strongly oppose physician assisted suicide.
In a “Position Statement” the Assocations of Northern California Oncologists, Medical Oncology of Southern California, California Medical , AMA, Am College of Physicians, doctors say eligibility is based on a six-month life expectancy. But, these doctors point out that, “Physicians are wrong about a patient’s prognosis “more often” than they are right. As oncologists, every week in our practices we see patients surviving months or years longer than estimated because of variability in disease or benefits from treatments, and we rejoice in these ‘errors.’…PAS will lead people to give up on treatment and lose good years of their lives.”
In addition, doctors share that, though promoters of these bills say there is a need to assist patients in severe pain at the end of life, pain is not an issue. They say that “Few patients requested suicide because of inadequate pain control or concern about it….Loss of autonomy and decreased ability to engage in pleasurable activities were cited in excess of 78% of cases.” which can be verified by the statistics in the Oregon Department of Health Annual Reports.
These doctors are concerned about the high percentage of patients who died from assisted suicide that they say, “Might have been helped by aggressive psychiatric intervention or spiritual counseling”.
Dr. Gomez, AMA, who headed a national AMA program to educate 20,000 or more doctors on patient pain management and care, says, “We now have lots of documented evidence that an aggressive drug regimen can effectively protect end of life patients from pain
The AMA states that “There is, in short, compelling evidence of the need to ensure that all patients have access to quality palliative care, but not of any need for physician-assisted suicide."
The AMA says that “Instead of participating in assisted suicide…..patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that a cure is impossible. Multidisciplinary interventions should be sought including specialty consultation, hospice care, pastoral support, family counseling, and other modalities. Patients near the end of life must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”
These top medical organizations and the AMA share concerns that physician assisted suicide distracts from applying integrative disciplines, such as psychological and hospice care, that give patients quality of life care at any stage -- as opposed to presenting a suicide option.
A hearing is planned for sometime in February in Hartford. To help, please contact your local legislators and ask them to reject these bills.
Eileen Bianchini is chairperson for the Connecticut Right to Life Corporation. You can contact her at EBianchiniGOLS@gmail.com