By Dr. Alieta Eck | The Save Jersey Blog
I urge the NJ Senate to vote “No” on S382, the “Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act.
I am a physician in private practice and served as President of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons in 2012. This organization was founded in 1943 to preserve the private patient-physician relationship. It is our belief that physicians have earned the trust of their patients, and no one should ever have to wonder whether the physician is coming to improve his life end it.
Physicians who have taken the Oath of Hippocrates know that it is their solemn duty to respect all human life and “avoid giving a deadly potion.”. Every unique person has a different course in life, and it is our role to affirm life and minimize suffering.
Depression, terminal illness and financial issues can lead to despair, and rather than helping see a reason to live, it would be a violation of good medicine for a physician to assist his patient in the irreversible course of suicide. There is never enough evidence to insure that there is not a hidden coercion on the part of family members wanting to make their own lives easier or inherit an estate.
We physicians have learned how to save lives, but there always comes a time when the process of dying has begun. At that point we do not have to employ heroic measures, as this would only prolong suffering. As long as the goal is always the comfort of the patient, there may a scenario when the process of relieving pain causes death to occur sooner than later. We do not need a law to make this legal. This is just good, compassionate medicine, not physician assisted suicide.
It is always dangerous for the government to intervene in any way other than to promote the culture of life. Instead of legalizing physician-assisted suicide, we need to promote all avenues of improving mental health. And in the case of a patient who has entered into the dying process, the physician needs to supervise the compassionate, life-affirming programs of hospice and palliative care.
Finally, I suggest that you research the “Liverpool Care Pathway,” a practice used regularly in England. Patients who are simply old and possibly confused are put to death over a weekend– without the patient or family consent. This is what happens when a government promises to pay for medical care but runs out of money. When hospitals experience overcrowding, the Liverpool Care Pathway becomes a logical solution. Who decides who gets care?
We in America should oppose the government making it legal for physicians to prescribe death.
Alieta Eck, MD