Opinion: Physician-assisted suicide a slippery slope

By Dr. Anthony Vigil

None of us is competent to make the decision when to end life. We just dont, and never will, have all the data. Since we cannot see into the mind or the heart, we cannot weigh all the factors that may be going into a patients decision to end life. Patients are not obligated to fully disclose everything. We have no idea what is going on in the concious or unconcious of a person during the last moments.

When we artificially bring them to the last moment, we are interfering with that process.

In the Netherlands, mentally disabled newborns are being mercifully euthanized. The slippery slope there is long past and, again, there is no authority on Earth that has the competence to decide when life is better ended. Nazi Germany was able to legally, rationally, and compassionately, (grant a) mercy death [Gnadentod] after a discerning diagnosis for those patients who, on the basis of human judgment [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable. There is scarcely anything more dangerous in our world and in our world history as misplaced compassion.

Without a change to the current New Mexico law, the only thing hindering dying patients from committing suicide is their conscience. We have to ask: why is their conscience telling them it is wrong to commit suicide? With the current law, they are free to commit suicide in many ways. If the laws are changed they will be free to commit suicide in ONLY ONE MORE WAY!

The difference seems to be, then, a matter of lessening a guilty conscience by allying their conscience with the opinions of lawyers, lawmakers and other medical professionals who happen to agree with them on this issue. The act and the intent ultimately remains the same: causing death to relieve suffering.

The irony is that the current New Mexico laws allow the relief of suffering even to the point of HASTENING DEATH. It may seem a subtle point, but smart people for thousands of years have seen the wisdom of refraining from (giving) no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel, as in the Hippocratic Oath of the 5th century B.C. It remains surprising that we think ourselves smarter and more compassionate than unanimously declared fathers of medicine who have refrained from this folly for thousands of years.

What about the hospice professionals? Are they competent in all else regarding incurable diseases except the patients final day?

Finally, ask your physician this question: if your patient has received the prescription of Seconal that YOU prescribed and has made all his/her arrangements for death and he/she comes to your office and you find him/her on the ledge of the building; what are you, the physician, obligated to do?

Dr. Anthony Vigil is a general surgeon practicing in New Mexico.

Opinions communicated in Solutions represent the view of individual authors, and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system.