The following letter was published in the online edition of the Ravalli Republic newspaper in Montana. This letter is a response to the article by Dr. Kress describing the three suicide deaths that he assisted.
I am a general medical practitioner with 30 years’ experience. I work in emergency medicine, with nursing home residents and with incarcerated persons. I have two issues with Dr. Eric Kress's (April 7) opinion describing his assistance of three suicides.
First, since when did assisted suicide become legal?
Second, I have concerns about the cases he describes.
Kress claims that his patients were not depressed. His description of one of those patients, however, suggests otherwise. Someone who is "often … found weeping and bemoaning the miserable fated that had befallen him" sounds depressed and unrecognized and untreated. And, someone who is "experiencing increasing pain in his chest…" may have needed different medications. There is essentially no pain that cannot be treated, though a secondary effect may be to hasten death. I do not know the medical facts of these cases; I do know that there were other options than committing suicide, whether or not they were explored.
Doctors’ diagnoses can also be wrong. I have seen patients in my own practice live longer than expected. With this situation, patients participating in medical suicides can be throwing away their lives. I have also seen suicidal people get better, and rebuild lives that looked pretty grim. I do not agree that doctors or anyone else should be assisting other people to commit suicide.
Carley C. Robertson, MD,