NPR Covers Palliative Care Doctor Who Wishes We’d Do More

Editor’s note. This appeared at Maryland Against Assisted Suicide.

Dr. Carin van Zyl

Dr. Carin van Zyl

As we see the state of California press forward with the ill-advised policy of legal assisted suicide, we also hear about more and more medical professionals who wish that the medical community would find better actions for improving end of life care. These doctors stress the same general theme: rather than accept defeat against the most challenging battles with illness and pain, we should continue to improve.

Last week, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” covered one such doctor: the head of palliative care at Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, who also teaches at USC’s Keck School of Medicine. Dr. Carin van Zyl is far from strident, but she frankly states that access to quality palliative care should be the healthcare community’s primary goal.

The NPR report clearly and cogently lays out her points:

“‘Patients feel as though their choices are between untreated suffering or physician-assisted suicide,’ [Dr. van Zyl] told NPR’s Renee Montagne. ‘Palliative medicine, when it’s applied skillfully and at the right time, often relieves most of the suffering that prompts people to ask for [death] in the first place,’ she says.”

We could not say it better than Dr. van Zyl; while she recognizes the way that assisted suicide might ease individuals’ paranoia about what death may be like, it does not truly serve the patient well to simply accept the false binary of both pain and hardship or accelerated death – as Maryland proponents now want to call it.

Dr. van Zyl also states in the report

“I worry that we made this available before we really put the necessary effort behind making sure that palliative medicine was made available to anybody dealing with a serious illness.”

We are deeply worried about that as well, and we encourage you to listen to this highly regarded professional’s opinion. In fact, we strongly encourage Maryland’s assisted suicide proponents to hear this as well.