Physician-assisted suicide purports to help solve some of the problems associated with end-of-life in Vermont. In fact, it will just make matters worse. It is a divisive, ideologically driven sledgehammer of a “solution” that undermines vulnerable patients’ trust in the good will of doctors, insurers and family members.
If assisted suicide becomes law, it is inevitable that some cost-challenged insurers, and all-too-human health care providers and family members will begin to shy away from doing the right thing: providing compassionate, humane care to terminally ill people.
Saying “it can’t happen in Vermont” assumes that we will do better than the equally well-intentioned state of Oregon, where it is a documented, media-covered fact that at least two people with cancer were denied by state insurers the life-improving and extending treatment they wanted, but were still offered lethal drug “treatment.”
After the Vermont Legislature defeated a similar bill in 2007, state health officials quite rightly worked hard to improve Vermont’s already strong palliative and hospice care. Much good was done in providing both patient choice and care. That is the direction Vermont must pursue. Assisted suicide, on the other hand, is a solution in search of a problem. Like most such solutions, it will just cause more real-life problems.