By Dr. Mark Rollo
Editor’s note. The following letter to the editor appeared in the Sentinel & Enterprise newspaper and is reposted with permission.
Death described as desirable; that is doctor-prescribed suicide.
Nine times in recent years, the death lobby has poured out-of-state money into Massachusetts in an effort to establish law that would simultaneously place the vulnerable at risk and corrupt the practice of medicine. Nine times the residents of Massachusetts have said “No!” to these efforts.
The death lobby is otherwise known as Compassion & Choices. That name is just one of their euphemistic deceptions. They were formerly known as the Hemlock Society but changed their name when they realized that naming their organization after a poison was not good public relations. Yet poison is what they are peddling, and they want the medical profession to push it.
Compassion & Choices wants doctors to push poison on their patients and euphemistically call it “aid in dying” or “death with dignity.” But there is nothing dignified about suicide, and there is nothing compassionate about a doctor killing his patient. Hippocrates understood this 2,500 years ago when he wrote the Hippocratic Oath, which stated in part, “I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asks for it nor will I make a suggestion to this effect.”
Hippocrates, along with the last 2,500 years of western medicine, realized what Compassion & Choices does not realize: A patient will not trust a doctor who can both heal and kill him. All of us have the right to refuse treatment. Doctor-prescribed suicide is not refusal of treatment.
It is the active participation in killing.
If doctor-prescribed suicide becomes legal it becomes a medical procedure, a very cheap medical procedure. Money-starved governments and profit-minded insurance companies will gladly pay for cheap suicide pills rather than expensive treatments. If this sounds unbelievable, be aware that this has already happened. Google Barbara Wagner of Oregon, who received a letter from Medicaid telling her that her expensive lung cancer chemotherapy would not be covered but her suicide pills would be.
Studies indicate that it is not pain that patients fear the most about the dying process. We have wonderful hospice programs that manage pain very well. What patients fear the most is being a burden to others. Doctor-prescribed suicide legislation would say to dying patients, “Yes, you are a burden.”
Furthermore, doctor-prescribed suicide is a recipe for the abuse of the elderly and disabled. It puts lethal drugs into the hands of potential abusers who may also be heirs and could administer the lethal drugs without the patients’ knowledge or consent. There is no oversight, and no witnesses are required once the lethal drugs leave the pharmacy. Studies also show that it is the white, wealthy and well-insured who want doctor-prescribed suicide because their choices will be expanded. However, it is the poor, people of color and the disabled who will have their choices limited as they will be inexorably steered toward the more economical choice of suicide.
In the ballot initiative of 2012, doctor-prescribed suicide was defeated in lower income areas of our state such as central Massachusetts, while the wealthier parts of the commonwealth voted for doctor-prescribed suicide. Patients all across our state deserve to be able to trust their doctors, especially when it comes to end-of-life care.
Again, the death lobby is back, and for the 10th time it must be defeated. Please contact your representatives in the state Legislature and tell them “No!” to doctor-prescribed suicide in Massachusetts!
Mark J. Rollo, MD, lives in Fitchburg, Massachusetts