By Dr. Janet D. Conway
Editor’s note. The following letter was published by the Baltimore Sun on March 5.
As a physician, I have the ultimate respect for life. All my training over the last 30 years has been to promote, support and protect life. I am opposed to the recently renamed End-Of-Life Option Act (“Medically assisted suicide bill moves forward in Maryland General Assembly,” Mar. 1). Call it what you want, it’s still physician-assisted suicide.
I realize that no one can cheat death. That event will happen regardless. What is driving this unfortunate bill is fear. Fear of pain, fear of being a burden, fear of lack of control, fear of feeling hopeless and depressed. Only poor decisions can be made based on fear and lack of knowledge.
As a physician, it is my job to educate and support patients so that they live the completion of their life to the fullest. This means that I reassure them that their pain will be well-managed and follow through on resources to help them with this. They don’t have to live in fear of pain because we have tackled this problem head-on. I also can support my patients by giving them numerous resources to help them as they are sick and dying.
There are many agencies that will assist patients who need help at home when their families are not available to assist them. This includes hospice care. This alleviates the fear of being a burden to their families. There are so many ways to plan for one’s death naturally including, as my mother-in-law did, selecting the dress in which she was buried and asking her friend the priest to say her funeral mass. A patient is able to die in peace when they are not rushing to end their life because of fear.
Kind, caring, compassionate physicians are the ones who can really guide and help their patients navigate this.
Any doctor who chooses to assist his patient in taking his own life has preyed upon an innocent victim. How can anyone trust a doctor to be fully supportive of their health and well-being when they also have the legal right to kill? I did not spent 10 years in training to obtain a licence to kill. I do not support suicide and neither should your doctor.
The writer is an orthopedic surgeon and division head of bone and joint infection at the Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics at Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.