By Alex Schadenberg, Executive Director – Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
In a debate format interview on the PBS Newhour, Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care for the end of life debated Barbara Coombs Lee, the leader of the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices.
Byock, with reference to the Brittany Maynard story stated on PBS Newshour that:
My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard. It’s a heart-wrenching story. But I want to assure … people watching that she could get excellent whole person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family.
It’s ironic that we know how to give extremely good care, not only comprehensive medical care, but tender, loving care. But … as the Institute of Medicine report shows, we’re just not doing it in this country. And it really is a national disgrace.
And giving doctors now authority to write lethal prescriptions fixes really nothing, none of the deficiencies in practice or medical training. It’s really a socially dangerous thing to do.
Byock then examined the reality of legalized assisted suicide.
You know, Oregon’s law was modeled after Holland and Belgium. And in Holland and Belgium these days, people are being euthanized, by their own volition, for things like depression or ringing of the ears, not just pain.
You know, Compassion & Choices actually sold to the public the legalization of physician-assisted suicide because of unremitting pain. But we can control pain. What’s happening now is that over 85 percent of people who use Oregon’s law and end their life do so because of existential or emotional suffering, feeling of being a burden to their families, feeling the loss of the ability to enjoy life, feeling the loss of meaning.
Well, once those become criteria, there are a lot of problems and human suffering that then becomes open to assisted suicide and euthanasia. It’s an undeniable fact that the slippery slope exists.
Byock then states that the role of doctors does not include assisted suicide.
I think that doctors are proscribed from killing patients for protection of vulnerable people and the public. And that’s a good principle to maintain.
Dr Byock then urges Maynard not to die by assisted suicide.
I think Brittany could have that — those same poignant movements and tenderness with hospice and palliative care.
I think, unfortunately, while not being coerced, she’s being exploited by Compassion & Choices, as well as by the media’s insatiable appetite for sensationalism. And I think that’s a tragedy.
I worry what will happen if she — her life still feels worth living on November 1. Will she then feel compelled to end her life in order to meet the public’s expectations?
I really worry for this woman who is vulnerable and going through a wrenching time in life. And I — frankly, I wish her all the best.
Brittany Maynard was upset with Byock’s statement that Compassion & Choices is exploiting her story. Byock responded to Maynard on the Diane Rehm show by stating:
It’s personally hard for me to hear that I’ve caused this young woman more distress… One of the things I disagree with is that Brittany Maynard has just said again that she thinks it’s her personal choice. But you know, physician-assisted suicide is not a personal act, it’s a social act. Physicians aren’t personal. We are trained by society … So when a physician writes a lethal prescription, it’s a social act.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition urges Maynard to seek care not death.
Editor’s note. This appeared at alexschadenberg.blogspot.com.