A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine , illustrates—yet again—that assisted suicide is not about unbearable suffering that can’t be controlled—as the scaremongering promoters claim—but rather understandable and treatable fears about the future. From the abstract :

Fifty-six Oregonians who either requested PAD [physician assisted death] or contacted a PAD advocacy organization completed a survey indicating the importance of 29 reasons for their interest in PAD on a scale where 1 was not important and 5 was very important; 28% of people referred from the PAD advocacy organization enrolled in the study.

Results: Forty-one patients died by the end of the study; 18 received a prescription for medication under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, and 9 died by lethal dose of medication. The most important reasons for requesting PAD, all with median scores of 5, were wanting to control the circumstances of death and die at home; loss of independence; and concerns about future pain, poor quality of life, and inability to care for one’s self. All physical symptoms (e.g., pain, dyspnea, and fatigue) at the time of the interview were rated as unimportant (median score, 1), but concerns about physical symptoms in the future were rated at a median score of 3 or higher. Lack of social support and depressed mood were rated as unimportant reasons for requesting PAD.


These are important issues that need to be addressed with committed compassion. But assisted suicide does the opposite: Physicians who write lethal prescriptions confirm the patient’s worst fears—that they will die in pain, that they will lose dignity, that they will be a burden—and thereby abandon the patient. Add in that zero patients receiving a lethal prescription were referred for a mental health consultation in 2007 and only two in 2008—which does not rise to the level of treatment, it is only to check for capability to decide—and the abandonment becomes nearly complete.

The article suggests a better answer:

At the time they express initial interest in PAD, Oregonians are motivated by worries about future physical discomfort and losses of autonomy and function. When confronted with a request for PAD, health care providers should first work to bolster the patient’s sense of control and to educate and reassure the patient regarding management of future symptoms.

Or to put it more succinctly, care yes, killing, no.

Articles by Wesley J. Smith

Loading...