The debate over physician assisted suicide (PAS) is hampered by its terminology. For some, suicide is always an evil.
I personally don’t have a problem with the term but other’s prefer physician assisted death (PAD)_. There is legal precedence now accepted in four states. It began in Oregon and is making its way through the NJ legislature. (not sure where at present). Criteria are extremely strict and the process is highly regulated. Physicians who sign on to the program can prescribe a lethal dose of medication. The patient must be physically and mentally capable of ingesting the drugs. There must be no clinical evidence of depression.
The Oregon experience seems to contradict the fears of many who oppose such legislation. Massive numbers of individuals did NOT sign up for the program. Only about 10% of those who qualified and received the drugs actually took their own lives with them. Palliative care and Hospice use actually increased in Oregon (as opposed to opponent’s beliefs) and there was no deterioration in the patient-doctor relationship.
Kevorkian exhibited the right intentions but his efforts were not well thought out. He was actively challenging the law and forced the country to take notice. His active euthanasia was too provocative for the population to accept. He was not particularly careful about screening out those who were severely depressed and not truly terminal.
Perhaps there would be even more acceptance if our labelling of the program would change. Termination of Suffering says it all. Perhaps we should change the term to PATS (physician assisted termination of suffering). I hope no one truly believes that hopeless suffering servers some higher spiritual purpose?
Who in their right mind would object to that? How naive of me. There are those who will.