Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Massachusetts: "Oregon doctor disputes state's assisted suicide"

The Gloucester Daily Times Wed Oct 19, 2011, 11:25 PM EDT

To the editor:

Cynthia Fisk's letter (The Times, Wednesday, Oct. 12) supports assisted suicide to avoid disabling and unyielding pain.

In Oregon, where I practice medicine and where assisted-suicide has been legal since 1997, there has never been a documented case of assisted-suicide used because of actual untreatable pain.

In statewide television ads in 1994, a woman named Patty Rosen claimed to have killed her daughter with an oral overdose of barbiturates because of intractable cancer pain. This claim was later challenged and shown to be false.

Giving patients a lethal dose to kill themselves is easier than evaluating them, caring for them and/or treating them. In short, legalization encourages lazy doctoring.

A few years ago, a patient contacted me concerned that an oncologist might be one of the "death doctors." She questioned his motives,­ particularly when she obtained a more favorable opinion from another oncologist. Such fears were never an issue before assisted-suicide was legalized.

Don't make Oregon's mistake.

William L. Toffler MD
Professor of Family Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University