LETTER: Doctors should be helping people live, not die

Re: Friend says final farewell with dignity (The NEWS, Letters, Feb. 6).

My dear Aunt Margaret passed away recently after a long, painful battle with cancer at the age of eighty-four. She was a dedicated mom and grandmom, devoted wife, and a community volunteer. She spent her last months surrounded by family, dear friends and a compassionate bedside medical team who managed her pain and provided tenderness at every opportunity.

Anyone who knew her admired her wit, her fortitude and her generosity. She suffered no fools and succumbed rarely to self-pity.

In her last days, she was offered the option of a medically-hastened death. This idea troubled her greatly. She did not wish to impose upon a doctor the role of genteel executioner, nor did she wish to sacrifice the dignity of his oath in order to advance a set of self-serving conditions.

After all, if you wanted to kill yourself, why, in this day and age, would you require assistance? The internet is replete with thousands of methods for every age and ailment. Why wait until you are physically unable? What quality of life do you have in those last months (past that point)?

Consider those countries which have, for some time now, decriminalized euthanasia. Eventually the decision to end life is either imposed by another’s notion of quality, or we convince ourselves that suicide is a dignified way to deal with any amount of pain (physical, emotional or financial).

I say to Mr. Reitsma, it isn’t a matter of passing moral judgment; it is, rather, a troublesome journey into moral complacency. Do we have an obligation anymore to address suicide rates? Or are they merely indicators of an emerging cultural paradigm where we now respect choices made under difficult circumstances that we cannot possibly understand?

I would not suggest anyone suffer needlessly or prolong their life artificially. But there is an important difference between death by natural expiration (do not resuscitate), and death induced by state-compliant, state-paid agents that we now feel legally entitled to as partner in our ultimate demise.

Here’s a novel idea – let medical professionals provide medicine professionally. Let them examine, prescribe, and do no harm.

John Chambers


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