March 5, 2024

Leading health expert slams assisted suicide in NY Times

Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel refutes four myths about assisted suicide in the New York Times

Dr Ezekiel J. Emanuel was one of the most reviled figures of the Obama Administration during the debate over its health care bill. He was even called a “Deadly Doctor” who wanted to ration health care. Last year he left the Administration and returned to academia, but no doubt some foes of Obama still regard him as a fan of euthanasia.

If so, reading his crisp, authoritative arguments in the New York Times against a proposed assisted suicide law in Massachusetts should persuade them that Dr Emanuel is a staunch opponent. He tries to refute four “myths”. 

Euthanasia is not about pain:

“Only 22 percent of patients who died between 1998 and 2009 by assisted suicide in Oregon— one of three states, along with Washington and Montana, where it is legal — were in pain or afraid of being in pain, according to their doctors. Among the seven patients who received euthanasia in Australia in the brief time it was legal in the ’90s, three reported no pain, and the pain of the other four was adequately controlled by medications. Patients themselves say that the primary motive is not to escape physical pain but psychological distress; the main drivers are depression, hopelessness and fear of loss of autonomy and control.”

Demand for euthanasia is not driven by advanced technology:

“If interest in legalizing euthanasia is tied to any trend in history, it is the rise of individualistic strains of thought that glorify personal choice, not the advances of high-tech medicine.”

Assisted suicide will not improve our quality of life:

“Whom does legalizing assisted suicide really benefit? Well-off, well-educated people, typically suffering from cancer, who are used to controlling everything in their lives — the top 0.2 percent. And who are the people most likely to be abused if assisted suicide is legalized? The poor, poorly educated, dying patients who pose a burden to their relatives.”

Assisted suicide is not a good way to go:

“Nothing in medicine — not even simple blood draws — is without complications. It turns out thatmany things can go wrong during an assisted suicide. Patients vomit up the pills they take. They don’t take enough pills. They wake up instead of dying.”

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Ezekiel Emanuel