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Dr. Josephine Glaser: Response to George Will’s support for assisted suicide

by | Feb 14, 2022

By Josephine L. A. Glaser, MD, FAAFP, Director Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-USA

Editor’s note. This was posted at the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition website and reposted with permission.

Josephine L. A. Glaser, MD, FAAFP

Regarding George F. Will’s Jan. 21 op-ed about assisted suicide laws.

Mr. Will’s article has an emotional appeal favoring medical aid in dying, a pleasant sounding name for physician assisted suicide at end of life. I also got the sense that Mr. Will was attempting to move the opinion of the US public and legislators toward favoring euthanasia. 

Currently, our northern neighbors legally allow their doctors and clinicians to not just prescribe lethal injections, but also administer them to patients, thereby killing patients by lethal injections. This is diametrically opposed to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization standard of palliative and hospice care. In addition, the Center to Advance Palliative Care is a vibrant network of health care professionals at over 1,700 organizations that train staff of all specialties and disciplines in communication, pain and symptom management, and other key skills to improve the care of people living with a serious or incurable illness. 

I am a Board Certified Family Medicine physician specialist with over 26 years experience in the art and science of womb-to-tomb care for individuals, families, and communities. My physician mentors taught me the way of palliative and hospice care as founded and practiced by Dame Cicely Saunders. Physicians, allied healthcare professionals, and healthcare systems should continue to help people who are living with incurable diseases or are imminently dying to live as well as they can until their natural death. 

Most physicians seek to relieve symptoms with medical aids for patients who are living with a terminal diagnosis or imminently dying of a terminal illness. Legislators serve their constituents by protecting the lives of vulnerable individuals and holding doctors and healthcare systems accountable to living up to the ideals of a doctor as healer and helper: “As to diseases, make a habit of two things—to help, or at least to do no harm.” Hippocrates 460-357 BC

This fundamental truth is what is overlooked, minimized, disparaged, conflated or ignored in all Death with Dignity bills. In 2003, assisted suicide advocates ran a successful messaging campaign. “Medical aid in dying” replaced physician (and now clinician) assisted suicide so as to make the idea and act more palatable to the public and legislative bodies. 

Assisted suicide advocates did the same by changing the organization’s name from Hemlock Society to Compassion and Choices. When legislators and the public are persuaded by heavily funded assisted suicide advocates to pass public policy allowing doctors and clinicians to legally hasten or accelerate the death of individuals (beware: removal of safeguards) by prescribing off-label use of lethal doses of medications and market that as “medical aid in dying” and a “peaceful death,” then the poor, the vulnerable, the forgotten, and the impaired are at greatest risk of unwanted accelerated death.

It is my medical opinion that Physicians, clinicians, pharmacists, and healthcare systems who support assisted suicide are providing false compassion and sub-standard palliative & hospice care. Best practice palliative and hospice care involves physician led and individualized care coordination with medications for pain, shortness of breath and agitation. There is skin care and personal care. There is emotional, psychosocial, and spiritual care. The best practice standard of palliative and hospice care is natural death which is a death with dignity.

Categories: Assisted Suicide
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