Thursday, June 21, 2012

Only MDs who pledge never to kill can be trusted

The following is a letter by Dr. Joseph Askin was published in the National Post on June 18.
Re: It’s Not Suicide, June 18. 
It is tragic that people with terminal illnesses, like Gloria Taylor, have concluded that physician-assisted death is the only way to relieve their suffering. Excellent palliative care is available in this country, so no one needs to fear dying in excruciating pain or indignity. 
It is astounding that we are courting physician-assisted dying, something the ancient Greeks rejected over 2,500 years ago. Before Hippocrates, a physician was either a healer or killer, depending on the intentions of the highest bidder for his services. Hippocrates and generations since have recognized that only physicians who pledge never to kill can be trusted with our care when we are most vulnerable. 
As a physician, my concern is not theoretical. A few years ago I admitted to hospital an elderly woman with a fluctuating level of consciousness. When I ordered that she be given intravenous fluids, before a diagnosis had even been made, some of the nursing staff accused me of being overly aggressive and lacking in compassion. The woman eventually regained consciousness and, ironically, asked for water. Had euthanasia/physician assisted suicide been legal, fighting on her behalf would have been even more difficult. 
It is ironic, too, in an age when the authority and integrity of every institution, from the church to government, is questioned, that proponents of physician-assisted dying are so eager to give physicians, (who can be just as fallible and corrupt as politicians, lawyers and clerics) the power to kill. 
Dr. Joseph Askin, Calgary.

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