Thursday, November 20, 2008

Objections to Assisted Suicide are based on concerns over medical integrity

A response to Sir Lord Joffe by Baroness Finlay of Llandoff was printed in the Times of London today.

Baroness Finlay is challenging Joffe who was essentially stating that opposition to Assisted Suicide is essentially based on faith.

Finlay states in her letter:
Most of the medical profession (including the medical royal colleges and the BMA) object to physician-assisted suicide. These are not faith-based objections. They are concerned about the dangers to the integrity of medical ethics and to the safety of their patients. They know how easily people who are ill can feel they are a burden, and how ending life can become an easy option for the clinician. Opposition to assisted dying comes from a wide spectrum of opinion, within Parliament and in society as a whole.
Finlay then challenges Joffe to come clean on the facts of his own legislative proposals. She states:
Lord Joffe denies his safeguards are “paper-thin”, yet recent research from Oregon reveals that as many as one in six people who commit suicide with the help of their doctors is suffering from treatable but undetected depression. Also, the prognosis of a disease is notoriously unreliable — all too often patients are told they only have a few months to live, yet are alive months or even years later. As clinicians we are occasionally taken in by an apparently loving family, only to discover the real truth much later. Even when we know a patient well, it is difficult to be sure that an expressed wish for assisted suicide does not stem from undisclosed pressures, such as feelings of guilt at being a burden on the family. Lord Joffe talks of psychiatric assessment. But his last Bill would not have made this mandatory, and in Oregon only one in ten of those whose suicide was physician-assisted in the past ten years had been referred.
In fact, in 2007, of the 49 people who died by assisted suicide in Oregon none of them were referred for a psychiatric or psychological assessment even though the Ganzini study showed that 17% of those who died by assisted suicide were depressed.

Finlay then challenges Joffe's assertion that assisted suicide should be legal because it happens already. She states:
Lord Joffe quotes a Brunel University study as stating that an estimated 0.16 per cent of deaths in Britain are attributable to deaths caused by doctors breaking the law. What he omits is Brunel’s conclusion that the incidence of illegal action by doctors in the UK is “extremely low” and that “most of the doctors in the survey appear happy with the state of the UK law”. He omits also another crucial conclusion — that, so far as the UK is concerned, the argument that changing the law is necessary in order to regulate involuntary euthanasia cannot be sustained.
Finlay then concludes her letter by challenging Joffe open up the debate about assisted suicide by stating:
Lord Joffe says he wants “calm and rational debate” without inaccuracies. I agree wholeheartedly. Those who want to legalise assisted suicide should be open with their proposals rather than wrap them up, as now, in comforting “end-of-life care” or “dying with dignity” packages. They should present it for what it is — aiding and abetting suicide — rather than try to pretend it is something more comforting.
Good for Baroness Finlay of Llandoff. The reality is that we do not know what is actually happening in Oregon because the death lobby has controlled the information by being directly involved in 73% of all assisted suicide deaths and because the only information that is gathered by the reporting procedure is from the physicians who prescribed assisted suicide to the person who is now dead.

I ask the question. Will a physician self-report an incidence that represents an abuse of the statute in Oregon?

The reality is that assisted suicide is a threat to the lives of people at the most vulnerable time of their life and just because the statistics show that most of the people who have died by assisted suicide are wealthy, does not negate the question, did they want to die or did they feel like they had a duty to die?

Link to the comment by Baroness Finlay of Llandoff

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