Explain again why this is necessary
Monday February 21, 2011
The Death with Dignity bill is back in the Vermont Legislature, and some see a chance it could pass this year because Gov. Peter Shumlin has expressed support for the idea.
However, the need for a law that allows physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients if they request it remains dubious. Patients and their families, with the help of care-providers, already routinely find ways to accomplish the same end to suffering, but such a law would directly involve physicians in a suicide, which runs counter to the Hippocratic Oath.
It is no secret that strong prescribed pain killers are, in effect, sometimes used to hasten what this legislation would allow on a formal, legally sanctioned basis. And do-not-resuscitate measures sometimes are a part of dying, whether or not there is a written document in place specifying the conditions. Just ask anyone who has cared for the dying or has watched a relative decline and die.
Families and care-givers apparently find ways to allow the dying to leave the world without this type of legislation, which only three states have enacted. That is obvious given the level of sophistication of modern medical care, which could — if a patient or a family demanded it — keep alive even hopelessly ill people.
Society has already developed routines for dealing with death for the terminally ill, some of which have been encoded into legislation, but others which appropriately have not. What this bill would do, however, is make the primary care-giver, the physician, a party to suicide. That doesn’t sound like a good place for society to go.