By Nancy Valko
2012, New York Times: “Instead of attempting to legalize physician-assisted suicide, we should focus our energies on what really matters: improving care for the dying — ensuring that all patients can openly talk with their physicians and families about their wishes and have access to high-quality palliative or hospice care before they suffer needless medical procedures. The appeal of physician-assisted suicide is based on a fantasy. The real goal should be a good death for all dying patients.” (Emphasis added)
2016, Journal of the American Medical Association: “CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are increasingly being legalized, remain relatively rare, and primarily involve patients with cancer. Existing data do not indicate widespread abuse of these practices." (Emphasis added)
The writer of these conflicting views on assisted suicide is Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., PhD., a very influential doctor who is Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the architects of Obamacare. He is considered an expert on medical ethics who speaks and writes prolifically for both medical journals and general media outlets.
No Conscience Rights?
Unfortunately, Dr. Emmanuel is now opposing conscience rights for those of us who object to participating in deliberate death decisions like abortion and assisted suicide.
In his April, 2017 New England Journal of Medicine article “Physicians, Not Conscripts — Conscientious Objection in Health Care” , Dr. Emanuel writes:
“Health care professionals who conscientiously object to professionally contested interventions may avoid participating in them directly, but, as with military conscientious objectors, who are required to perform alternative service, they cannot completely absent themselves from providing these services. Conscientious objection still requires conveying accurate information and providing timely referrals to ensure patients receive care.”
“Health care professionals who are unwilling to accept these limits have two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession. “
Although the political process may continue unabated, and courts may deem conscience clauses to be legal, it is incumbent on professional societies to affirm professional role morality and authoritatively articulate the professional ethical standards to which all licensed health care professionals must adhere. Laws may allow physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers to deny patients treatment or to refuse to care for particular populations, but professional medical associations should insist that doing so is unethical.”
(All emphasis added)
Please reread that last sentence: “Laws may allow physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care workers to deny patients treatment or to refuse to care for particular populations, but professional medical associations should insist that doing so is unethical.”
Some may think this cannot happen in the U.S. or that actions like assisted suicide only occur privately in a patient’s home, but as I wrote in my last blog “Outrage: The American Nurses Association Approves Physician Assisted Starvation Suicide”, the American Nurses Association recently published a position statement, “Nutrition and Hydration at the End of Life,” that states:
”Decisions about accepting or forgoing nutrition and hydration will be honored, including those decisions about artificially delivered nutrition as well as VSED.”
“People with decision-making capacity have the right to stop eating and drinking as a means of hastening death.”
(All emphasis added)
In reality, nurses face an even greater risk than doctors who refuse to participate or refer patients making death decisions.
After assisted suicide was legalized in Oregon, the Oregon Nurses Association quickly issued guidelines for nurses that included these two points for “Nurses Who Choose Not to Be Involved”: “You may not:”
Subject your patients or their families to unwarranted, judgmental comments or actions because of their decision to continue to provide care to a patient who has chosen assisted suicide.
Abandon or refuse to provide comfort and safety measures to the patient.” (All emphasis added)
Abandonment is a very big deal in nursing. To be accused of abandoning a patient can result in termination, loss of license or even a lawsuit.
But even if you are not a health care professional, you should be concerned about ethical health care professionals being forced out of health care by taking Dr. Emmanuel’s advice that there are only “two choices: select an area of medicine, such as radiology, that will not put them in situations that conflict with their personal morality or, if there is no such area, leave the profession. ”
Can any of us really trust a health care system that only accepts medical professionals who are just as willing to help end our lives as they are to care for us?