Friday, July 21, 2017

Assisted suicide or euthenasia- what's your view?

Most people have heard of the idea of living wills and advanced directives- especially those who work in the healthcare field. Those living with chronic progressive and/or terminal illness and their families, most likely are also knowledgeable about advanced directives and living wills. Hospice services help those patients with a terminal illness to receive comfort care in their final days.    Palliative care services aides those who may or may not be eligible for hospice, but  have intractable pain or other needs that might not be fully met with mainstream pain management alone.

Assisted suicide, is an entirely separate concept, and it is not legal in the United States.  Commonly referred to as euthanasia, the idea of assisted suicide is a complicated subject, and is distinct from Hospice services.  Personally I have known some confused individuals and even healthcare professionals who  may even equate hospice and palliative care services to be no different than euthanasia.  Yes, it is true that effective pain and symptom management might require increasing doses of medication to be effectively controlled, nevertheless this is not considered euthanasia or suicide. Although for some living with terminal illness, there is the rare occasion that severe intractable pain  might need to be treated with palliative sedation, in no way is this to be equated with euthanasia or assisted suicide.

Dignitas- assisted suicide video - This video depicts the last day of a man in the later stages of  a terminal neuro-degenerative illness. It is the policy of Dignitas, the assisted suicide service organization-  to take a video of the patient for the purposes of establishing that his death was not coerced and to rule out a crime when an investigation is conducted.  For this reason, one may come across assisted suicide videos on the internet.  In this video, can see that the man's degenerative conditions has progressed so as to cause almost a full body paralysis and to impair his ability to breath on his own.  It is clear even with ventilation support, the work of breathing is debilitating for this man. One can see his gasps for breath as he talks.  It is obvious the man is suffering physically and emotionally, and that his mental awareness and cognitive ability is fully intact.  Also this is not legal in this country, nor should it be legalized,  it is hard to place judgment, nonetheless,  on this man's decision, nor should one presume to make judgment on this man's personal decision to end his life.   I was unable to find any information if this man had access to hospice programs. One can not say with assurance if this man had access to Hospice, if he would have still experienced the hopelessness, distress and physical pain leading to his decision.  Nevertheless, I have seen the effectiveness of hospice programs in alleviating the physical and emotional distress of alleviating individuals in terminal stages of illness ranging from cancer to degenerative neuro- motor diseases.  I personally feel its worth while to make hospice more accessible to patients and to take measures to reduce the fear and stigma that many associate with hospice programs.

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