The Lifelines story in Mishpacha's Peasch issue, “Living with Dignity,” illustrates graphically how physician-assisted suicide statutes completely transform the mindset of health-care providers. (The story was actually sent to me by the narrator/daughter of the patient in question, who heard I was researching the Canadian statute.[see earlier in the link about the Canadian statute])
Every single physician and nurse in the story, with the sole exception of the Orthodox “Dr. Sharon Finer,” who insists that the mother’s condition is “completely treatable,” appears to view their duty with respect to a terminally ill patient as to expedite their departure from the world.
First, the doctor at the hospital in which the 84-year-old cancer patient is being treated tells her that her cancer has metastasized to her bones and stomach lining, and that she has only a day or two to live. She is sent home to die. By prematurely ending treatment, the hospital caused her needless pain by failing to detect calcium leaking from her bones into her blood.
After she was admitted to a second hospital via the emergency room, that hospital too soon gives up on medical treatment, and keeps sending teams of palliative specialists to ask whether she would like increased doses of morphine, which can often trigger a fatal heart attack. Those same professionals next recommend cessation of hydration, which will lead inevitably to death.
Only after the elderly cancer patient realizes that death is not as imminent as she was told, does she insist on lowering her pain medication so she can resume normal activities. For her efforts, she is visited by a series of psychiatrists who try to convince her to die already. One asks her, “Do you have any meaning in life?” Even after being assured that she does, he keeps conveying the same message: “We are here to help you die, if that is your wish — and we truly believe it is.”
Another young resident completely misreads a CT scan and tells the patient that the situation is hopeless. The resident then falsely writes on her chart that the patient expressed a desire to cease treatment.
Today, more than half a year after the first prediction of death, the narrator’s mother goes to the gym every day to work out on the elliptical machine and lift weights, reads prodigiously, and greets her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren with a smile.
Sometimes, even under medical regimes that appropriate to themselves the ability to assess the “quality of life,” the merchants of death strike out.
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