Assisted Suicide: Reframe the Debate
With great interest I read Barry Corbet’s May, 2003 essay, “Physician Assisted Death: Are We Asking the Right Questions?

[as excerpted in NM, July 2014]. It is now 11 years later and medical devices are more sophisticated, medications more specific, and physicians and their patients have Internet knowledge at their fingertips. Please note, legislation is about the terminally ill with six months to live and mentally competent. It does not single out the disabled community.

Suicide occurs when a generally healthy, irrational, or despondent person acts impulsively to end his or her life. Aid-In-Dying is a concept applied to a terminally ill individual who is rational and realistic, competent, and thoughtful, who does not want to suffer painfully and values a dignified death when a disease is killing him or her.

When an individual takes a position against “physician-assisted suicide,” that argument is using biased terminology and missing the point at the very essence of the debate. The point is to honor a life worth living, to give aid when it is needed most, and to respect a patient’s autonomy, choice, and dignity. Doctors give aid in birthing; doctors should be able to give aid in dying. Their patients need to know this.

When a terminal illness is diagnosed, when there is no hope for cure, when the patient is aware that hospice and palliative care may not be adequate, when dignity needs to be preserved, an option to end one’s life peacefully at a time and place of one’s choosing ought to be legally available.

We, as physicians, are guided by rational thoughts, even as our interactions with patients often take place during unusually emotional life moments for them. We have heard a lot of inflammatory rhetoric in public debates about dying. But beyond the rhetoric is the fact that medicine is about delivering care that is i