Medical aid in dying is not assisted suicide [PODCAST]

“To help the reader understand the issues better, I would like to relate some stories. A friend of mine was dying of pancreatic cancer. He had an implantable morphine pump and was on both hospice and palliative care. Still, he found that his suffering was unbearable and wanted to die sooner. Doctors told him that his only option to end his suffering was to voluntarily stop eating and drinking, which he did. As a result, he developed psychosis, and his loving family has been scarred by the experience. He died after 10 agonizing days. I heard about an individual with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), which is incurable and causes the death of neurons that control muscles and eventually leads to the inability to move and then the ability to breathe. This person killed himself with a gun before he lost the use of his arms. I had a number of patients with cancer that we were not able to control their pain, and I gave them palliative sedation (a morphine drip that caused them to become unconscious) to control their suffering. Had it been available, medical aid in dying could have helped all these people.

When my cancer gets worse, I expect to have a great deal of pain. I would like the option of having medication to put me to sleep, end my suffering, and to die, at home, with my family and friends around me.”

The author would like to correct the following statistics from the podcast:

  • 17 percent of terminally Ill individuals discuss medical aid in dying with family and friends.
  • 2 to 10 percent discuss medical aid in dying with a physician.
  • 0.6 percent get medical aid in dying prescriptions.
  • 0.3 to 0.4 percent use a medical aid in dying drug.

Roger Kligler is an internal medicine physician.

He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, “Medical aid in dying is not assisted suicide.”

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