Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No dignity in a syringe full of poison.

The following letter was published by The Star newspaper in South Africa (Link).

Eusebius McKaiser’s column headlined “Put my dignity first, kindly” (see related articles below) supports euthanasia, particularly in the aftermath of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s recent declaration favouring assisted suicide or euthanasia to ensure death with dignity.

Of course everyone wants to die with dignity. But I cannot understand what is dignified about a doctor terminating (aka killing) a patient’s life, even at the patient’s request.

The point is, quite apart from the serious moral issues involved, such drastic action is unnecessary. I assist in a unit where many patients die from terminal disease, yet they are all counselled, cared for and appropriately medicated, so that their last days are as serene and peaceful as possible. Isn’t that dying with dignity?

It is true that many do die undignified deaths, at home or in hospital. But that only reflects failure to access the care available, such as the involvement of hospice, adequate sedation, good counselling and many other strategies to effectively reduce suffering and preserve dignity.

Please, Archbishop Tutu and Eusebius McKaiser, when you come to the end of life’s road, don’t look for a doctor with a syringe full of lethal poison. There is no dignity in that.

Look instead for a doctor who knows how to fulfil his responsibilities to his patients, and provide a peaceful environment that allows life to slip serenely away. That is the death with dignity you are looking for.

Dr Terry Gilpin
Port Shepstone, KwaZulu-Natal

Link to a similar article:

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