To the Editor
Failing to cover the Visiting Nurse Association’s palliative care
presentation (March 28) was a mistake. At a time when massive changes
to our health care system are advancing at the state and federal
levels, the importance of access to quality palliative care is
greater than ever.
Dr. Diane Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care,
is a renowned expert and strong advocate for health care reform,
including institution of a single-payer system here in Vermont.
She admitted that when she was younger, and “somewhat naive,” she
advocated for assisted suicide. But she quoted an old Chinese proverb
that influenced her change of heart: Suicide reverberates for seven
generations. “The harm to families when someone decides to leave,
rather than having to leave,” she said, “is substantial.”
According to Dr. Meier, “the movement to legalize assisted suicide is
overwhelmingly driven by the ‘worried well'” — those who are afraid
of the loss of control that dying and death bring.
Sick people, however, almost always want to continue to live. When
they were well, they might have been adamant that they would not
tolerate extended illness or disability. “Because people adjust,
people are remarkably resilient. And life is precious, and your
vision of what’s worth tolerating changes.”
She went on to state that “Legalization of physician assisted suicide
in a society like ours … is pretty scary,” because doctors have
neither the training nor the time to identify and treat the real
needs of those likely to ask for it.
Let’s improve access to quality palliative care in Vermont for the
sick, the disabled, and the dying, and not allow the “worried well”
to impose their fears onto any of us. We all deserve better. A lot better.