Assisted Suicide for Terminally Ill Patients
This is one subject that most of us probably have very strong feelings about, pro or con. Separation of church and state may very well be exemplified by the passing of a law such as this.
I recently read an article about the state of Washington having passed an ‘Assisted Suicide’ law, and a 66 year-old lady being the first patient in that state to use this law in order to free herself from the excruciating pain of end stage pancreatic cancer.
This law attempts to allow mentally competent people who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease to die with dignity.
Now, of course, there are guidelines that need to be met such as the patient must be seen by two separate physicians who come to the same conclusion that this person only has, at best, six months to live. The patient must be deemed mentally competent and must request help for assisted suicide twice with at least a two-week span between the first request and the second one.
Physicians and hospitals are not required by law to provide this type of assistance, and the physician who agrees to prescribe the ’suicide medications’ cannot administer them: this must be done by the patient. Also, pharmacists must fill out forms stating that these medications were prescribed and that the prescription was filled as ordered.
A patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease such as cancer is all too aware of what’s up ahead for him…deep sorrow at leaving loved ones behind, excruciating pain requiring high doses of pain medication to the point of not knowing what is going on around him, and finally death.
However…healthcare professionals who have strong feelings of opposition concerning assisting a patient in conducting an escape out of the dying body must be recognized and respected, also. Because there are so many varying religious teachings, people should not be forced to go against their own beliefs just because of the upcoming sad and painful demise of someone else.
We must keep in mind that no law is perfect, and that some people and organizations will always find weak spots or loopholes to point to in order to try and shore up their own arguements of ‘pro’ or ‘con’.
However, the state of Washington seems to have come to a fairly realistic compromise in trying to please everyone while attempting to uphold the rights of all…including the terminally ill patient who is mentally competent and does not wish to suffer disease-torturing pain for weeks on end before his life is finally over.