Opinion: Assisted suicide debate began decades ago and little has changed

Dr. Anthony Vigil

Dr. Anthony Vigil

By Dr. Anthony Vigil

Since ancient times, some suffering, incurable patients have had the desire to end their lives, and some physicians could always be found who would comply with a patient’s request. Hippocrates (or other physicians) found this offensive and against the role of the physician as healer, and included the “no assisted suicide” clause in the Hippocratic oath.

For those confused by my use of the term “assisted suicide,”I will clarify. “Aid in dying” is what Mother Teresa did for thousands of dying patients in Calcutta, India for about 50 years. On the other hand, assisted suicide, according to the American Medical Association, occurs “when a physician facilitates a patient’s death by providing the necessary means and/or information to enable the patient to perform the life-ending act.”

Some assisted suicide proponents seem to think that we are more compassionate today, more enlightened or whatever, and so we should again broach the subject of physician assisted suicide; a practice held in check, for the most part, for a few thousand years.

I argue that the compassion bar has been raised no higher since ancient times. The technology to end a patient’s life has always been around. The Nazis raised the compassion question again in 1933, where we find a New York Times article titled: “Nazis Plan to Kill Incurable to End Pain; German Religious Groups Oppose Move.” Would any claim the Nazis raised the compassion bar here?  (Actually, the Nazis required THREE physicians to agree on the patient being incurable, not just TWO, as the Oregon law dictates.)

So we see that there is nothing new under the sun with regards to the compassionate ending of life of incurable patients.

Using rational thought (and a look back at history) we can allow the assisted suicide movement to die (again) a natural death.

Dr. Anthony Vigil is a general surgeon practicing in New Mexico.
Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the view of individual authors.

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