Hastings Bioethicist Speaks the Truth about Physician Assisted Suicide


Ezekiel Emanuel, a prominent bioethicist of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and the Wharton School, as well as a Fellow of The Hastings Center, has exposed some of the myths concerning the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.  Dr. Emanuel has identified as fallacies four arguments that are used to justify the violation of the sacred trust of physicians to do no harm.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times (“Four Myths About Doctor-Assisted Suicide,” October 27, 2012), Dr. Emanuel addresses the impending Massachusetts ballot initiative of next Tuesday, which will decide whether to allow doctors to “prescribe medication, at the request of a terminally ill patient meeting certain conditions, to end that person’s life.” He cites how a similar bill is being debated in New Jersey.

The falsehood that pain is a driving cause for seeking physician-assisted suicide is exposed: “Patients themselves say that the primary motive is not to escape physical pain but psychological distress; the main drivers are depression, hopelessness and fear of loss of autonomy and control.”  Furthermore, Dr. Emanuel debunks the myth that the over-use of advanced technology is the impetus for requiring physician-assisted suicide:  “If interest in legalizing euthanasia is tied to any trend in history, it is the rise of individualistic strains of thought that glorify personal choice, not the advances of high-tech medicine.”  A third misconception identified about physician-assisted suicide is that it will improve the end of life for everyone: “And who are the people most likely to be abused if assisted suicide is legalized? The poor, poorly educated, dying patients who pose a burden to their relatives.”  Lastly, but not exhaustively, Dr. Emanuel exposes the fact that physician-assisted suicide does not represent a “good death,” citing how a Dutch study indicates that complications from patients’ ineffective attempts at medication self-administration have resulted in direct interventions by physicians that constitute euthanasia.

This opinion piece is a “must read” for all needing to counter the falsehoods that are the bases for justifying the legalization of physician-assisted suicide. See[BtaIii,4,MAAFtv,1,6