Archive for January, 2009

Why Oppose Assisted Suicide?

January 4, 2009

1)     The notion of helping people to die is contrary to the core of medicine.

In Oregon, only a handful of physicians have written lethal prescriptions over the past 10 years, and only about 1 death in a thousand happens this way. The overwhelming majority of physicians and terminally ill patients essentially vote against PAS.

2)     We should not take the step of making medical care merely another commodity for which there is a supply and a demand — i.e., whatever (legal thing) the patient wants, the patient gets.

Think about patient "rights" to receive antibiotics any time they wish; pain killers dispensed on demand; teen boys able to demand steroid hormones for body building. Someone might question why the doctor gets to impose his or her views on these people if they’re willing to take the risks, but physicians need to be able to operate within a code of ethics and without the expectation that "what a patient wants, the patient gets." This will lead to the Kevorkian ethical standard becoming the norm.

3)     The Oregon law has seen a lot of abuse, despite what the newspapers editorialize.

None of the Oregon assisted suicide patients last year were referred for evaluation for depression: it would be nearly a statistical impossibility for none of the terminally ill patients to have been depressed. In fact a recent study at OHSU suggests that 20-25% were clinically depressed. But no one is looking over the shoulders of the assisted-suicide activists as they arrange for lethal prescriptions. The Oregon Public Health Division has zero resources for it.

4)     Accepting this will start us down the road to worse abuses.

This isn’t speculation — it’s already happened. In Oregon, at least one patient was injected with lethal medication despite the fact that the law prohibits it. Another elderly woman, somewhat demented, was pressured by her daughter to get a lethal prescription — doctors’ notes say that the woman herself didn’t really seem to want it. In Europe, euthanasia is already becoming commonplace. A Princeton professor has written about a "duty to die" for people whom society finds no longer useful.

 

Southwest Washington Medical Center Board of Directors

January 4, 2009

Dr. Twyla Barnes, Chairwoman                         

SWMC Board of Directors                                                               

Educational Service District #112                                       

2500 NE 65th Ave.                                                

Vancouver, WA 98661-6812                                            

 

Mr. Lee Kearney, Vice Chair

SWMC Board of Directors

7611 Evergreen Highway

Vancouver, WA 98664     

 

Mr. Ron Prill, Treasurer

SWMC Board of Directors

5807 NW El Rey Drive

Camas, WA 98607     

 

Ms. Judi Brenes, Secretary

SWMC Board of Directors

2519 NW 91st St

Vancouver, WA 98665

 

Mr. Dick Boyd

SWMC Board of Directors

Boyd Coffee Co.

19730 NE Sandy Blvd.

Portland, OR 97230

 

Mr. Brett Bryant

SWMC Board of Directors

2506 SE 125th Ave.

Vancouver, WA 98683

 

Mr. Thomas G. Burkholder

SWMC Board of Directors

4705 Cady Court  

Vancouver, WA 98663     

 

Nicholas Carulli, M.D.

SWMC Board of Directors

304 North Lieser Rd.

Vancouver, WA 98664     

 

Mr. David Nierenberg

SWMC Board of Directors

19605 NE 8th Street

Camas, WA 98607

 

Rev. Robert Rhodes

SWMC Board of Directors

300 W. 8th St.

Vancouver, WA 98660

 

George B. Shanno, M.D.

SWMC Board of Directors

200 NE Mother Joseph Place, Ste. 110

Vancouver, WA 98664

 

Donald M. Thompson, M.D.

SWMC Board of Directors

505 NE 87th Ave., St. 120

Vancouver, WA 98664

 

Mr. John White

SWMC Board of Directors

BERGER/ABAM Engineers

1111 Main St #300       

Vancouver 98660-2914

 

Mr. Joseph M. Kortum, President/CEO

Southwest Washington Medical Center

P. O. Box 1600

Vancouver, WA 98668

 

               

Example Letter From Healthcare Professionals to Facilities

January 4, 2009

As a (physician, nurse, pharmacist, health care professional) working at _________ (hospital, clinic, long-term care facility or medical center), I believe that the duty of health care professionals is to protect the lives of those entrusted to our treatment and care. Medically vulnerable patients place their trust in me each day—they trust that I will care for them to the best of my ability, that I will comfort them when I can no longer heal them, and that I will always treat them with dignity and with respect.  They trust _____________ (hospital or facility)  to do the same—patients and their families trust that when they enter our doors, we will provide the best of care in an environment that is safe and conducive to healing.

 

It is in this context of trust that I want to express my deep concern over the recent passage of Initiative 1000, which legalizes physician-assisted suicide in Washington state. The American Medical Association and 49 of its state chapters have declared that they do not support the practice of physician-assisted suicide. The Washington State Medical Association announced in July of this year that physician-assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the role of physicians as healers.” I believe, along with the WSMA and many of my fellow health care professionals, that physician-assisted suicide endangers vulnerable patients and is incompatible with good medicine.

 

In Oregon, many institutions have adopted policies that do not allow employed physicians to write lethal prescriptions, hospital pharmacies to dispense lethal prescriptions, or lethal prescriptions to be administered on hospital premises. The conscience clause of I-1000 makes clear that health care providers may opt out of participating in assisted suicide.  In addition, health care facilities may prohibit health care providers from participating on their premises by following the law’s simple procedures.  (See Section 19 of I-1000.) I urge ____________  (hospital or medical center) to refuse to allow assisted suicide and to continue to offer excellent treatment, care, and comfort to our terminally ill and dying patients. 

 

__________ needs to continue to be a safe harbor for patients and families. I believe that many members of the community will steer clear of any facility which supports and practices physician-assisted suicide and instead seek health care in an institution they can trust with their lives. Obviously, the provision of lethal drug overdoses is the antithesis of safe care. Additionally, since the practice  is controversial, it is likely to divide staff, cause conflict between patients and their families, and encourage legal complaints.

 

I have always appreciated the excellent standard of care we offer at _____________ . For me, it is an honor and a privilege to be a member of our health care team and to work alongside other professionals who share my passion for truly compassionate care. It is because I honor the ‘do no harm’ philosophy at the heart of medicine and because I care deeply for the well-being of my patients that I urge (hospital, clinic, facility) to reject all participation in assisted suicide.  

  Sincerely,

Example Letter From Patients to SWMC

January 4, 2009

Dear _____________ :

 

I am writing to thank you for Southwest Washington Medical Center’s tradition of excellent care for the sick and suffering in our community. It is a tradition I hope you will continue to honor and support in the years to come, as the people who live here have placed their trust in your corporate role as caregiver.

 

It is in regard to this trust in Southwest’s continued excellent care that I am writing. The passage of Initiative 1000, which legalized physician-assisted suicide in Washington state, undermines this trust.  It leaves people frightened and doubtful about whether or not they will continue to receive good care in a medical environment that allows the intentional ending of life.

 

I recently read that the American Medical Association, as well as 49 of its state chapters, has declared that it does not support the practice of physician-assisted suicide. The Washington State Medical Association announced in July of this year that physician-assisted suicide is “fundamentally incompatible with the role of physicians as healers.” I believe, along with the WSMA, that physician-assisted suicide contradicts the very mission of healthcare, and it endangers vulnerable patients who deserve care and comfort throughout their illness.

 

In Oregon, many institutions have adopted policies that do not allow employed physicians to write lethal prescriptions, pharmacies to dispense lethal prescriptions, or lethal prescriptions to be administered on institutional premises. The conscience clause of I-1000 makes clear that health care providers may opt out of participating in assisted suicide.  In addition, health care facilities may prohibit health care providers from participating on their premises by following the law’s simple procedures.  (See Section 19 of I-1000.) I urge Southwest Washington Medical Center to refuse to allow assisted suicide and to continue to offer excellent treatment, care, and comfort to people who are terminally ill and dying.  

 

If Southwest continues its life-affirming and comfort-enhancing mission by not participating in assisted suicide, I will surely continue to support and patronize your facility and encourage family and friends to do likewise.  I know that my family, friends, and many members of our community will join me in supporting health care providers we can trust with our lives.

 

 I look forward to hearing that Southwest Washington Medical Center will not allow the practice of physician-assisted suicide on its premises or by its employees. Please contact me to notify me of your decision.  My contact information is as follows: _______________________.  Thank you for your consideration in this all-important matter. 

 

Sincerely,