Assisted suicide betrays trust, human dignity

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

As an attending physician for the past 25 years at Chesterfield Family Practice, I have had the opportunity to participate in the training of 180 doctors. I have always strived to teach them to value their patients and to treat them with dignity. To earn a patient’s trust is of highest priority in order to influence them in good health care. Whether wealthy or poor, young or old, black or white, male or female, we are to treat them with value and dignity. Everyone appreciates being treated with respect. Physician-assisted suicide undermines the value of the individual and will in the long run undermine the foundational trust that is needed in a successful health care system.

In 2015, Dr. Ryan T. Anderson wrote, “Allowing physician-assisted suicide would be a grave mistake for four reasons. First, it would endanger the weak and vulnerable. Second, it would corrupt the practice of medicine and the doctor-patient relationship. Third, it would compromise the family and intergenerational commitments. And fourth, it would betray human dignity and equality before the law. Instead of helping people kill themselves, we should offer them appropriate human care and human presence. We should respond to suffering with true compassion and solidarity. Doctors should help their patients to die a dignified death of natural causes, not assist in killing. Physicians are always to care, never to kill.”

Besides the office and emergency room, my clinical practice has included nursing home patients as well as U.S. soldiers with three and four limb amputations from improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. Either population would see benefit in physician-assisted suicide, but it behooves us instead to believe in them, to encourage them and help them find hope in the days and years ahead. This is a direction that influences all of society.

James Anderson.


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