Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Massachusetts: Oregon doctor finds fault with state's law

I am a doctor practicing medicine in Oregon and Washington, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I disagree with Scot Lehigh that these suicides are not like other suicides in which “a healthy person [takes] his life for reasons of despair, depression, or hopelessness’’ (“Death with dignity in Mass.,’’ Op-ed, Sept. 23).

First, doctors can be wrong. So, what looks like a few months to live can be years. For a good article on this subject, see Nina Shapiro’s January 2009 "Terminal Uncertainty" in the Seattle Weekly.

Second, despair, depression, and hopelessness are a part of assisted suicide. A few years ago, a patient of mine who was undergoing cancer treatment with a specialist became depressed, and expressed a wish for assisted suicide.

In most jurisdictions, suicidal ideation is interpreted as a cry for help. In Oregon, the only help my patient got was a lethal prescription intended to kill him.  Don’t make our mistake. Keep assisted suicide out of Massachusetts.

Dr. Charles J. Bentz
Portland, Ore.
The writer is an associate professor of medicine in the division of general medicine and geriatrics at Oregon Health & Science University.