Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Opposing assisted suicide after near-fatal motorcycle accident

Alex Schadenberg
Executive Director, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition

Bill Fertig
A guest column by Bill Fertig that was published in the Virginian Pilot on October 22 explains that a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1999 has led to Fertig opposing assisted suicide. Fertig wrote:

My view of assisted suicide is colored by my near-fatal motorcycle accident in 1999. As I awoke from a medically induced coma, I soon realized that the accident had left me with complete paraplegia (T-7). Until then, I lay unconscious and oblivious in a trauma center. I briefly contemplated the emotional pull of life versus death. Fortunately, I had a strong and supportive extended family who helped me to choose hope to keep going. I still had to relearn everything about my new body and adjust to a manual wheelchair.

Before my injury, on multiple occasions as a police officer, I was assigned to stop a suicide. This also gave me insight. In one case, I was dispatched to the home of a man who had attempted to asphyxiate himself inside his running car and closed garage. Upon entry, I successfully pulled him away from the carbon monoxide and drew him safely outside. He had been depressed, but was lucky. After the intervention, he received mental health treatment and recovered.

I have also personally witnessed the devastating and long-lasting effects of suicide on a victim’s family and friends. Naturally, they wonder why the victim did not seek lifesaving mental health treatment, or during an advanced illness, palliative care and/or hospice.

In my experience, all medical professionals and first responders are routinely trained to save people from committing suicide. Why then, do we, as Americans, not make every effort to dissuade sick patients from taking their lives, and why do we instead euphemistically refer to the tragedy as “medical aid in dying”? Why do many people not call it what it is: suicide? As a society, we never encourage people to choose death by overdose, carbon monoxide or a self-inflicted gunshot. Why is assisted suicide mass-marketed as “medical aid” when it has nothing to do with improving a patient’s health?

In my second career with the Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center, I helped advocate for victims and families — including a Maine man living with chronic spinal cord injury (SCI). Hospital staff there projected their own personal bias onto Chris Dunn, a plumber in his 40s with a severe SCI from a swimming pool accident, who lay stabilized in a critical care unit. Hospital administrators prejudged Dunn as having slim prospects for quality of life and were prepared to let him die without rehabilitation efforts. Dunn expressed his will to live and requested every opportunity for rehabilitation. With our help, he lived, and once weaned from a ventilator during rehabilitation, returned home to live with his family.

Depression can be successfully treated. The effects of chronic injuries can be mitigated through quality rehabilitation. Taking time to consider all options can be a great healer. Even “irreversible medical decline” can be alleviated with palliative or hospice care.

As an SCI survivor, I know the healing power of patience. My goal is to help others see their tremendous value — regardless of circumstances — and ensure they can access the lifesaving treatment they deserve.

The insurance industry should never be allowed to prescribe assisted suicide as a cheap substitute for providing lifesaving care. If you agree that every patient should have access to lifesaving treatment, urge your legislators to oppose assisted suicide. For more information, contact NoSuicideVA@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Bill Fertig of Virginia Beach is the retired director of the Spinal Cord Injury Resource Center of the United Spinal Association. Prior to his motorcycle accident, he was a 25-year member of a Pennsylvania police department.

The assisted suicide lobby has introduced bills to legalize assisted suicide in Virginia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Bill Fertig. God bless you as you advocate for the cause. Yours is the cause for life, unfortunately many are make their for death in our society.
Jorge Ferreira, Chilliwack BC Canada