More on the "Right" to Die

A recent articles in the New York Times examines the practice of assisted suicide in Oregon(registration required).

The article is pretty standard for the media’s coverage of suicide. In the beginning, they show a patient, nominally undepressed, who clearly states why he wants to die. The dissenting physician profiled just said that he didn’t go into medicine to kill people, which I agree with as a medical student, but it is hardly something to convince the public that this law is a disaster. The citing of religious reasons for avoiding suicide is also par for the course, and in a pluralistic society, cannot carry much weight.

As if to soften the blow, the author is careful to note that very few people have committed suicide under the Oregon law. Moreover, the patients who have killed themselves were described by their doctors as "feisty" and "unwavering" in a survey cited by the NY Times, despite the fact that physicians have a bad track record of spotting depression in any patient, and Oregon’s psychiatric safeguards for physician assisted suicide are spotty at best.

For a more complete picture of the realities of assisted suicide in Oregon and elsewhere, check out Foley and Hendin’s The Case Against Assisted Suicide.The book also presents the hospice movement and positive alternatives to assisted suicide.

You may notice that I reviewed this book on Amazon. It was the NY Times article that upset me enough to finally finish writing the review. Assisted suicide is a symptom of how much we really have to learn about disability and pain, and this book is part of the cure.