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Why many hospice doctors like me won’t participate in legal physician assisted suicide
Los Angeles Times

On June 9 California will join four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — in allowing physician-assisted suicide. Meanwhile, my state, Arizona, and a dozen or so others are considering their own “right to die” laws. As a hospice physician, about twice a year I am asked by a patient to prescribe a lethal dose of a medication. Oncologists throughout the country report that up to half of their patients at least ask about it.

But even if it were legal in Arizona, and I knew a patient met all the criteria established by law, I would still not hasten his or her death. That would be my right as a doctor, and it will be the right of doctors in California as well.

The reasons I won’t participate begin with the Hippocratic oath I took when I became a doctor — “First do no harm.” I have also seen too many late-breaking healed relationships and radical changes of heart in my patients’ last days to think that taking a prescription in advance of the end is the best way to die. Most important, I believe that physician-assisted suicide is an unnecessary defense against fear and suffering.

Commands