Bizarro was funny today. But Dr. Kenneth Stevens, of Physicians for Compassionate Care, used the cartoon to make an important point about medical conscience clauses in a private e-mail to me (reprinted here with his permission):
I think it [the cartoon] ties in with physician conscience. What if that procedure with the gun is legal, but the doctor is anti-gun, should he remove himself from medical practice because his conscience is against using a gun on a patient?
Pieter Admiraal, M.D., leader of The Netherlands euthanasia movement said: “You will never get accustomed to killing somebody. Writing a prescription is like giving a patient a loaded gun and just asking him not to shoot before you leave the house.” [American Medical News 9/15/1997]
Bingo. Legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia transforms killing or helping a patient commit suicide into a medical act. So, if poison pills or a lethal injection can be considered “medicine,” why can’t a Colt 45 be deemed a palliative medical device? The result is the same, after all.
That aside, just as no one would punish a doctor for refusing to shoot a patient who wanted to die (I heard you Douglas Farrow), neither should doctors face punishment for refusing to assist—or be complicit—in the suicides of their patients. Check here for more on the issue of conscience clauses.