Friday, April 10, 2009

The Push To Force Doctors to Lethally Prescribe in Washington Continues

Dollars to donuts that Compassion and Choices brought this story to the reporter: Apparently a pancreatic cancer patient wanted assisted suicide and couldn't find a doctor to do the deed. (Note how the story reporter, Laura Kate Zaichkin, blatantly employs the usual pro-assisted suicide perspectives and buzz words, and somehow she forgot to include comments from any opponent of assisted suicide or a hospice professional to get a three-dimensional perspective on the situation.) From the story:

Stephen Wallace died at home Tuesday morning--but not on his terms.

The 76-year-old Benton City man, who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer a month before his death, died in pain as the cancer spread to his kidneys, liver and lungs, making him unable to speak, stand or eat.

It's exactly how he didn't want to die. Wallace's last wish was to be prescribed life-ending medication by a local doctor. He wanted to be able to take the medication himself and die surrounded by family in the home he built three decades ago. "My dad made up his mind a long time ago," said Steve Wallace of West Richland, Stephen Wallace's son. "There was no question. He knew what cancer could do to a person."
Interestingly, when Dame Cecily Saunders, the founder of hospice was asked how she wanted to die, she said, "Cancer." When asked why, she said that it would give her time to say goodbye and she knew that her symptoms would be controlled. And indeed, she did and they were.

The primary point of the story is to "shame" area doctors and hospitals to participate in assisted suicide. But there appears a secondary purpose as well--beginning to soften the ground to loosening the "guidelines." (This same approach was taken early in the Oregon experience with a story brought to the Oregonian about how hard it was to get cancer and Alzheimer's patient Kate Cheney, dead. But that story blew up in the assisted suicide movement's face) But I digress:

"There was nothing. It was roadblocks." Steve Wallace said. "Dying with dignity looks good on paper. But when you take it off the blackboard and try to apply it, it has no merit."

Though a few doctors on the west side of the state are willing to participate in physician-assisted death, there seems to be no one in the Mid-Columbia, said Dr. Tom Preston, Compassion and Choices' medical director. He said...doctors tend to want to avoid the paperwork requirements and instead keep end-of-life care between patient and physician, he said...

Nicole Austin, executive director of the Benton Franklin County Medical Society, a professional organization for doctors, said ..."The way (the law is) written, it might defer physicians from participating." Austin said some items in the law, such as being required to list the patient's underlying condition as the cause of death instead of participation in Death With Dignity, rub some physicians the wrong way.

Yes, the law requires doctors to lie about assisted suicides on death certificates. That way, no one can ever really know what's going on.

Finally and predictably, the story becomes an advertisement for Compassion and Choices:

So what's left to do for those who want to access the Death With Dignity Act. (State Hospital Association spokeswoman Cassie] Sauer said, "Compassion and Choices is the place that's really going to help people." But the organization is limited because it relies mainly on word of mouth to point patients to physicians who might help, Preston said.

Compassion and Choices encourages those who might want to use the act to start investigating sooner rather than later. The group provides a form letter on its website ( for patients to give their doctor to start the conversation about end-of-life wishes.
Why doesn't C and C just put reporter Zaichkinon the payroll and be done with it? It would be more honest that way.



At April 10, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

What bothers me most about this story is that it made no mention of pain control or a patient's right to it beyond taking poison. The man shouldn't have had to die in pain, he should have had access to the medication he needed to ensure that his pain would be ameleorated. But, apparently, CC and this journalist just don't give a damn.

At April 10, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

SAFEpres: I guess you and I see this differently. The man wanted to die on his own terms, while people like you wanted to force him to die on YOUR terms. That's really what it comes down to. When will self-appointed do-gooders stop minding other people's business and leave them to their own choices?

At April 10, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Nobody forced him to do anything Doctors chose not to participate, as is their right--still.

At April 10, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

HW-you said on another post that you do not support euthanasia. What's with the waffling?

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

OK Wesley. Consider the following: You are drowning and screaming for help, and I'm standing on shore about twenty feet away, next to a life preserver. All I have to do is toss it to you, but I "choose not to participate --- as is my right" because of my sincerely-held belief that it would be interfering with God's will. Go ahead; tell me about my moral obligation.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

SAFEpres: You misunderstand. If you check back over my posts you'll see that I'm opposed to ACTIVE euthanasia, not assisted suicide. The victim in this case was asking for the means to end his suffering so that he could self-administer it, not for a doctor to put a pillow over his face. That's the difference.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

But you've reversed the example 180 degrees History Writer. I am certainly morally obligated to throw you a life saver. But if you wanted to drown yourself, I have no oblitation to give you an anchor to which to tie yourself to make sure you sink.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger Puph said...

What about the issue of doctor's right to privacy. Doctors treating the terminally ill who were willing to grant the request, face not only a gauntlet of paper but a lifetime of harassment from the ilks of you.

Your statement that the reporter "blatantly employs...and ...forgot to include comments from any opponent of assisted suicide..."

Could you possibly suggest what positive thing could be said for this situation that would have satisfied your own self righteousness?

The man spent his last 30 days of life, tied up in red tape fighting a bureaucracy!

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

Puph: Thanks for commenting. First, I have never harrassed any doctor. Second, opponents could have pointed out issues not addressed in the story, such as how such desires can be overcome in hospice, how pain--particularly cancer pain--is readily controllable, and how stories such as this paint a false picture.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

Wesley-excellent comeback.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

Puph-It seems that in your view, voicing dissent = harassment.

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

Sure, Wesley, it makes perfect sense. Other people have to accept the kind of treatment YOU advocate, because YOU advocate it. If it's right for Wesley it must be right for everybody. Kind of presumptuous, isn't it, to tell people how much pain they should have to accept because Wesley's sensibilities might be offended if they wanted an easy out?

At April 11, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

History Writer: You just can't get it right. First, I advocate in the public square for laws that the US Supreme Court ruled twice unanimously were constitutional.

If that fails, I advocate that doctors obey their consciences and abstain from what is wrong and unethical, even if it is legal. Oh, the tyranny!

At April 12, 2009 , Blogger HistoryWriter said...

No, I DO have it right. You'll continue to complain, even when some doctor provides his or her patients with what is legal, because you've convinced yourself that it's unethical. That is to say, it's your opinion. Period.
Tell us, honestly, how much pain is "not enough" to satisfy your criteria? And by what right do you second-guess other people's desires? The Supreme Court may have ruled that there is no Federal constitutional right to assisted suicide, however states may lawfully decide to make assisted suicide available in their jurisdictions, as they see fit. Presumably that will be done without interference by people like former AG John Ashcroft --- and other like-minded folks. And please, stop denigrating doctors who perform lawful procedures simply because you disagree with them.

At April 12, 2009 , Blogger Wesley J. Smith said...

History Writer: Jack Kevorkians are not acting medically, even if they are acting legally. They will always be subject to criticism because it is a matter of ethics.

At April 12, 2009 , Blogger SAFEpres said...

HW-like I said, you are a frustrated euthanasia advocate. Any significant criticism of your agenda is "denigrating" to those participating in it. Moreover, by what right to you presume to give less rights to the handicapped in matters of accessing suicide prevention? Look in the mirror, please.


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