The Point Blog ARCHIVE
All articles found in the archive are more than three years old.
The purpose of this blog is to stimulate thought and discussion about important issues in healthcare. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of CMDA. We encourage you to join the conversation on our website and share your experience, insight and expertise. CMDA has a rigorous and representative process in formulating official positions, which are largely limited to bioethical areas.
The Point Washington Update – February 2015
February 26, 2015
by Christian Medical & Dental Associations®
Excerpted from “Selling suicide,” commentary by CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody, published in The Washington Times online magazine, American CurrentSee,
Compassion & Choices, the never-say-die advocates for state-sanctioned assisted suicide, seem to have mastered the art of putting lipstick on a pig. Whether or not Americans learn to see through their euphemisms and illogic may well determine the fate of many vulnerable patients, including those in California and 20 other states where the organization now is leading a well-funded lobbying campaign to legalize assisted suicide.
Reincarnated from a previous life when known as The Hemlock Society, the more politically correctly named Compassion & Choices non-profit organization claims on its website, “For over 30 years we have reduced people’s suffering and given them some control in their final days.”
That claim would come as news to the medical and pharmaceutical professions, which, unlike non-profit advocacy groups, actually are trained and authorized to prescribe and provide medications that reduce suffering. Pain medication reduces suffering; lethal pills end lives. Suicide does not control death; it merely accelerates it.
The group also claims to “increase patient control and reduce unwanted interventions at the end of life.” Yet the law has long recognized patients’ right to decline “unwanted interventions at the end of life.” Given the pressure by insurers, unscrupulous heirs and uncompassionate caretakers on vulnerable, depressed and disabled patients to end their lives early, assisted suicide represents the real threat of an “unwanted intervention at the end of life.”
[As evidenced by polling], government-leery conservatives tend to critically analyze the smooth rhetoric designed to advance state-sanctioned assisted suicide, no doubt wondering:
- Would state governments that sanction suicide block the media, watchdog groups and the public from investigating suspected abuses? (Yes; Oregon’s assisted suicide law actually stipulates that “information collected shall not be a public record and may not be made available for inspection by the public.”)
- Might activist judges liberally construe and expand the phrase “pain” to mean not only physical but also psychological pain? (Yes; European courts already have slid down that slippery slope.)
- Could courts determine that disabled persons’ inability to ingest lethal pills means that they must be allowed to request euthanasia–thus empowering doctors to actively kill their patients? (Almost certainly, under equal access principles.)
Critical thinkers who have studied history and health may also ask probing questions such as:
- Can physicians help kill their patients and still follow the Hippocratic ethic, which protects patients by forbidding physicians to “give poison to anyone though asked to do so” and insists on, “first, do no harm”? (No.)
- Can physicians can accurately predict a patient’s life expectancy? (No.)
- Can physicians treat most patients’ pain? (Yes, and updating legislation could ensure even more aggressive pain treatment.)
Anyone with a loved one facing a difficult illness, depression or financial hardship should ask:
- Might family members not learn of their loved one’s suicide until after she’s dead? (Yes–as under Oregon’s law.)
- Could legalizing suicide send suicide-vulnerable young people a deadly message? (How could it not?)
- Would vulnerable patients be pressured into requesting assisted suicide? (Only when heirs, insurance companies and governments could save money with a quick death rather than expensive healthcare … or when caregivers became tired or uncaring … or when a depressed patient felt like a burden on others.)
Excerpted from The Coming of Medical Martyrdom, commentary by Wesley J. Smith, First Things, February 20, 2015 – Despite abortion’s ubiquitous legality and the accelerating push to normalize assisted suicide, space remains for dissenting doctors to practice their art in the traditional Hippocratic manner.
But that space is diminishing. Today, “patient rights” are paramount; the competent customer is always right and, hence, held to be entitled to virtually any legal procedure from “service providers” for which payment can be made—be it abortion, assisted suicide or, someday perhaps, embryonic stem cell therapies and products made from cloned and aborted human fetuses.
Hippocratic-believing professionals … are increasingly being pressured to practice medicine without regard to their personal faith or conscience beliefs. This moral intolerance is slowly being imbedded into law. Such laws are a prescription for medical martyrdom, by which I mean doctors being forced to choose between adhering to their faith or moral code and remaining in their profession.
Canada is heading in [this] direction regarding euthanasia. Quebec legalized doctor-administered death last year and allows no conscience exemptions along the lines of Victoria’s abortion law. Meanwhile, the Canadian Supreme Court just made access to euthanasia a Charter right for those with a diagnosable medical condition that causes “irremediable suffering,” including “psychological” pain.
Recognizing that some doctors will have moral qualms about “terminating life,” the Court gave Parliament twelve months to pass enabling legislation, stating that “the rights of patients and physicians will need to be reconciled” by law or left “in the hands of physicians’ colleges.” That doesn’t bode well for medical conscience rights.
If these trends continue, twenty years from now, those who feel called to a career in health care will face an agonizing dilemma: either participate in acts of killing or stay out of medicine. Those who stay true to their consciences will be forced into the painful sacrifice of embracing martyrdom for their faith.
Executive Director of the Christian Medical and Dental Society of Canada Larry Worthen, MA (Th.), LLB: “Comments by Wesley Smith regarding conscience rights for healthcare professionals in Canada should sound an alarm for our friends in the United States about the dangers of complacency. Advocates for a rationalistic and exclusively secular approach to healthcare are gaining ground and are shamelessly flexing their muscles behind the scenes with the provincial colleges that regulate the practice of healthcare in Canada.
“Buoyed by a recent unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of Canada which struck down sections of the Criminal Code dealing with assisted suicide and euthanasia, they are setting about the work of forcing physicians to refer for, and in some cases provide, procedures that go against the conscience of the physician. This has already resulted in physicians questioning whether they should move from their jurisdiction or dramatically alter their practice.
“However, all is not lost. In the recent case, the Supreme Court cited a previous decision that acknowledged that a physician could not be forced to participate in a procedure that went against the physician’s conscience. CMDS Canada is currently using this argument in lobbying efforts with the two provincial colleges that have proposed policies that encroach on the freedom of conscience.
“If those lobbying efforts fail, then we will be forced to commence legal action to vindicate our rights to freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We ask our friends in the United States for your prayer support in this challenging time.”
Use our easy, pre-written forms at our Freedom2Care legislative action website to contact your senators and protect freedom of faith and conscience in healthcare – S 50.
Freedom2Care – Visit CMDA’s one-stop source for news, commentary and resources on freedom of faith, conscience and speech.
View Canada CMDS’s video interviews with doctors on this issue (navigate to right-hand column on home page).
Excerpted from “Assisted suicide is not ‘death with dignity’,” commentary by CMA VP for Govt. Relations Jonathan Imbody, published by the Baltimore Sun, February 21, 2015 – An advocate for a Maryland “death with dignity” bill complains, “Why is it that I can put my dying pet to sleep to end its suffering, then have to sit with my dying spouse at a hospice?” (“Md. needs a death with dignity law,” Feb. 18).
The comments suggest exactly why assisted suicide is far from “death with dignity.”
Unlike animal pets, human beings possess the ability to transcend their physical bodies to achieve dignity and purpose.
The fact that a caretaker expresses regret at “having to sit with my dying spouse at hospice” unwittingly illustrates the pressures that can be brought to bear on the vulnerable, the disabled and the dying to end their lives prematurely.
The unpleasant truth is that when sick, elderly or disabled individuals are experiencing challenges that render them weak, depressed and extremely vulnerable, their caretakers will all too often prefer emotional relief to persevering in care-giving; insurers and governments will save money with a quicker end to life; overeager heirs may want to cut care short to preserve their inheritance; and coldly pragmatic health workers may want to clear the bed that patients nearing the end of life “uselessly” occupy.
As former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop observed, the “right to die” becomes the duty to die. We should instead focus on palliative care, assisting families with vulnerable patients and upholding the true human dignity that transcends our frail bodies.