Excerpt from: Not Dead Yet (click for full article)
A recent (I don’t think it’s quite the latest) issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) features a “case vignette” of a terminally ill man who requests an assisted suicide prescription from his doctor. Here’s part of that vignette:
John Wallace is a 72-year-old man with metastatic pancreatic cancer. At time of diagnosis, the cancer was metastatic to his regional lymph nodes and liver. He was treated with palliative chemotherapy, but the disease continued to progress. Recently he has become jaundiced, and he has very little appetite. He has been seeing a palliative care physician and a social worker on an ongoing basis. His abdominal pain is now well controlled with high-dose narcotics, but the narcotics have caused constipation. In addition to seeing the social worker, he has also been seeing a psychologist to help him to cope with his illness.
The response against assisted suicide is written by J. Donald Boudreau, M.D., Margaret A. Somerville, A.u.A. (pharm.), D.C.L. Here’s an excerpt – read right after vignette:
Permitting physician-assisted suicide creates a slippery slope that unavoidably leads to expanded access to assisted suicide interventions — and abuses. Advocates of euthanasia deny that slippery slopes exist, arguing that legal constraints and administrative safeguards are effective in preventing them. But the evidence is clearly to the contrary, as the High Court of Ireland recently affirmed. In upholding the constitutionality of the prohibition on assisted suicide, the justices wrote, “. . . the fact that the number of LAWER (`life-ending acts without explicit request’) cases remains strikingly high in jurisdictions which have liberalised their law on assisted suicide . . . speaks for itself as to the risks involved.”2 Vulnerable communities in our societies — persons who are old and frail and those who are disabled or terminally ill — perceive themselves to be threatened.3 Physicians must not be willfully blind to these serious dangers.
The response in favor of assisted suicide is written by Nikola Biller-Andorno, M.D., Ph.D. – her response can be found in the “option 2” page, which is identical to the page with the response against assisted suicide – same vignette, and the comments after the response are also the same ones.