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Healthcare Professional Assisted-Suicide Debate

How should professionals in palliative care and the medical field respond to the growing topic of physician-assisted suicide? This is the question being asked more and more as the debate on assisted suicide rapidly gains traction. Dr. Diana Barnard sees the argument as an opportunity to improve end-of-life care, saying that it “brought with it a whole parallel movement to try and more broadly look at the needs of people facing serious illnesses at the end of their lives”.

Boosting Awareness of Palliative Care

Regardless of their position, many healthcare professionals have agreed, “the recently reignited national debate over physician-assisted suicide will boost awareness and use of palliative care and hospice care”. Both types of care focus on patients and loved ones to ease pain for chronic or end-of-life conditions. Many supporters and opponents of the issue say that there is hope that “palliative care can improve quality of life for suffering patients and may reduce their desire to ingest lethal medication”. However, not all are so optimistic. Some don’t see the connection between the growth of palliative care and the discussion of physician-assisted suicide. Some are steadfast in their beliefs that “there are patients who will still seek the death-with-dignity option, regardless of the quality of their care”.

Future of Assisted Suicide?

No matter the position one takes, it’s undeniable that assisted-suicide is becoming a topic that requires attention. After the Supreme Court ruled that the issue would be left up to the states, “more than 20 states have introduced legalization bills, and lawsuits joined by physicians have been filed in California and New York challenging state laws barring assisted suicide”.

Need For Hospice and Palliative Care Education

It’s noted that those with oppositional, supporting and neutral stances agree that “…there’s still more room for expansion in the use of hospice and palliative care”. Many see it as an opportunity to grow and educate. Do you agree? Do you think that palliative care can affect someone’s decision to live? Let us know!

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