|Thomas Eppes, M.D.
Recently the effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide has ramped up in Virginia. For 2,500 years, medicine has claimed the role of healer, but this dangerous public policy would change that by requiring a doctor’s participation in a patient’s demise .
Patients should never be conflicted about which role their physician plays.
In places where it is legal, patient-directed suicide has morphed into family-determined suicide, and then into doctor-directed suicide. The “safeguard” of a six-month-or-less prognosis has morphed into just no longer wanting to live. And the right to die seems to have become an obligation for some.
In Lynchburg where I live, we have a sad history of eugenics. Local physicians knew what was happening but never spoke out, so non-voluntary sterilizations were carried out here for years. Our state just recently voted to pay the victims reparations.
That was a case of physicians abdicating their role of healer, but physician- assisted suicide is not much different. It makes possible modern-day eugenics for the mentally ill, elderly or disabled.
Despite recent and vigorous efforts to change the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics forbidding PAS, the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs wisely recommends maintaining a stance of opposition towards this dangerous practice. And the citizens of our commonwealth, too, should demand that physicians stay out of the business of death.
Physicians are healers, not life takers.
Thomas Eppes, M.D.
State director, American Academy of Medical Ethics