A Yale medical professor has written an important article in the Hastings Center Report. He prescribed drugs for a patient, not terminally ill, knowing she would use it to kill herself.
First, her reasons for wanting to die were consistent with those often expressed by people who legally commit assisted suicide. From, “Physician Assistance in Dying: A Subtler Slippery Slope,” by Thomas P. Duffy:
She described her life as one that had mainly involved outdoor activities such as skiing and hiking; she anticipated a future of pain and increasing immobility. Her husband supported her wishes.
Rather than get her help for her existential anguish and fear, the doctor instead prescribed enough narcotics to kill her–expecting that she would do it:
This is an example of how euthanasia consciousness leads to patient abandonment–it seems to me by both doctor and husband. The repentant doctor now sees this hard truth:
My quiet acceptance of a woman’s request to prematurely end her life represents a worrisome evolution for me in my professional responsibility for my patients. I never “leaned against” her choices. In fact, I was comfortable in my complicity with the act.
The push for assisted suicide leads to bad consequences:
[T]he slippery slope may be subtler and even more insidious and dangerous for the profession. A shift in how we care for patients is occurring in an environment where an enthusiastic embrace of death with dignity may cause some patients to die prematurely.
We may acquiesce too easily and quickly when we sense that patients intend to end their lives. We ought to focus, I think, on guaranteeing that we will attend to their suffering on the way to possible recovery and on attempting to help them redefine their reasons for living.
Among other things, that means keeping assisted suicide a crime.
We are becoming a suicide culture. Even the medical profession has become tainted. Hopefully, Duffy’s belated realization will save other patients and doctors from a similar fate.