Friday, September 21, 2012

Physician speaks on Oregon experience of assisted suicide

An excellent article that was written by Christopher Pineo and published today in the Boston Pilot entitled: Physician speaks on Oregon experience of assisted suicide.
Dr. Kenneth Stevens

Dr. Kenneth Stevens, the Vice-President of the Oregon based group - Physicians for Compassionate Care, recently spoke at a conference concerning his personal experience with legal assisted suicide in his state of Oregon.

The article started by reporting on an experience Stevens had with one of his patients. The article stated:
Twelve years ago, a patient visited Dr. Kenneth Stevens after being diagnosed with a form of cancer that would kill her in six months without treatment, seeking drugs to end her life. Over a course of the next few weeks Dr. Stevens spoke to her about other options. 
"If my doctor had believed in assisted suicide, I would be dead. I thank him and all my doctors for helping me to choose 'life with dignity.' Assisted suicide should not be legal. I hope Massachusetts does not make this terrible mistake," she wrote in a 2011 letter to the Boston Globe.
The article states that Stevens, who is an oncologist with 46 years experience, first focused on the language of the debate. The article stated:
"The legalization of physician assisted suicide does not give any new rights to the patient. They say, 'I want a right to die.' Well, you are going to die. You already have that right. Its purpose is to legally protect doctors who write prescriptions for lethal drugs," he said. 
He said clearly defining the issue should remain at the center of the effort to fight physician assisted suicide. 
"It is important to use proper language. It is physician-assisted suicide. That's what it is," he said. 
He said attempts to legitimize or legalize physician assisted suicide are based in the language of driving an agenda not promoting the development of healthcare or patient needs.
Stevens was then quoted for his comments on the campaign the occurred in Oregon and how Compassion & Choices has been able to gain support for assisted suicide in Oregon. Stevens stated:
...it was passed as a result of a campaign led by what was once called the Hemlock Society, which has taken up the name Compassion and Choices after merging with other organizations in recent years. 
"They are leading the campaign here. They use euphemisms to distort the truth. They use double-speak," he said. 
He said traditional groups in the field of medicine make clear distinctions regarding the issue of physician assisted suicide. 
"The American Medical Association code of ethics also says that 'allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role as healer,'" he said, quoting the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics. 
He said physician assisted suicide laws in Oregon have breached the trust between doctors and patients when other factors become involved. 
"Assisted suicide has turned medicine upside down. There can be no safe haven, no safe harbor for a patient when the doctor may kill them. We don't care for patients by killing them," he said.
Stevens then speaks about how legalizing assisted suicide changes doctors, he stated:
Dr. Stevens said that beyond uprooting the traditional values regarding life, the laws can degrade care for patients. 
"Assisted suicide leads to the dumbing down of medicine," he said. 
He said no skill is required to write a prescription for life ending drugs, taking the focus off of the doctor's role in determining a solution to sometimes simple medical issues. 
In his role as an educator he also must anticipate the needs of students. 
"As we interview prospective students we don't usually ask, 'Do you want to go into medicine to kill people?' That's not what we ask," he said. 
He said implementation of these laws can create a niche for physicians who make lethal treatments a kind of speciality. 
"There was a report from a state agency where from 2001 to 2007, 109 doctors --which is about 1 percent of Oregon doctors-- wrote 271 fatal prescriptions. Of those 271 fatal prescriptions, about a fourth of them where written by only three doctors," he said.
Barbara Wagner
Stevens then spoke about the cases of Barbara Wagner. He stated:
He also addressed the inherent danger of laws supporting physician assisted suicide wherein the expense of treatment becomes a factor in determining which care should be available to which patients. He pointed out that the elderly, infirm and disabled come under threat in this way. 
He presented the case of a woman denied experimental chemotherapy treatment under her health plan, but approved for assisted suicide.
Dr Stevens concluded his presentation with the following remarks:
"It is an ideology that a patient should be able to take their own life with a doctor's assistance," he said. 
"The legalization of assisted suicide is anti-science. It is against medical care. It's against scientific medicine," Dr. Stevens said.
Dr Kenneth Stevens has tirelessly worked to expose the reality of assisted suicide. It is important that people in Massachusetts  listen to his experience and vote NO on question 2 in Massachusetts in November.


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