Monday, January 21, 2013

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would be dangerous

The following letter was written by Dr. Joe Nemeth, a ER doctor in Montreal Quebec. The letter was published in the Montreal Gazette on January 21 under the title:  Legalizing physician-assisted suicide would be dangerous.

Re: “A creeping culture of death” (Opinion, Jan. 18)

As a short addendum to my colleague Dr. Sherif Emil’s articulate piece, I would also like to weigh in from a perspective different from pediatric surgery, namely seeing the potential “slippery slope” implications of this ruling in the acute care setting.

I am an “ER doc” in the emergency departments of both the Montreal General Hospital and Montreal Children’s Hospital. I wholeheartedly concur with Dr. Emil’s viewpoint regarding the truly destitute state in which we find Quebec health care today and consequently, how this ruling can easily have detrimental ethical and jurisprudential implications. Patients presenting to Emergency with a terminal illness needing to be admitted may be legally coerced to allow for physician assisted suicide to free up hospital beds for those not dying.

Furthermore, it is not difficult to imagine where Emergency docs — already burdened with overwhelming financial and resource pressures — will be encouraged to make physician assisted suicide a practical, cost-cutting “alternative” disposition for those with terminal illness. These sentiments are not outlandish but realistic (see Belgium’s example of physician assisted suicide where what was originally proposed as a solution for extreme cases has become a well-marketed “therapeutic option”).

These are very dangerous waters we may be entering as a society. I call on the government leaders to listen carefully and heed the warning of not the bureaucrats but the MDs who uphold the true essence of physicianship.

Joe Nemeth MD

No comments: