MEDPAGE is a nationwide, on-line, physician information resource. On it, clinical cases are presented to encourage discussion of their bioethical ramifications. Highly regarded thought-leaders weigh in.  In a current scenario, based on a recent real-time incident in the Netherlands, the question arises:

Ethics Consult: Euthanize Resistant Dementia Patient? You Make the Call”

My response:

An elderly woman has issues with progressive dementia, but is otherwise healthy.  Five years ago, she signed a Living Will. She knows for certain now that she does not want to die.  She realizes that her doctor is here to kill her.  She is struggling to resist and crying for out for help.  Attendants are required to hold her down, while her doctor deliberately injects a lethal dose of poison. 

This is not end-of-life care; it is the violent, uncaring ending of a life. This is death devoid of dignity. This is not suicide with a physician’s assistance; this is death by physician assassination. This poor woman has forfeited, by fiat, both her right to life and her right to choose. Strip away the façade of white coat and stethoscope.  This is not medical care; this is murder.

Lesson #1: If you live in one of the many states that have successfully withstood perennial legislative assaults by the euthanasia lobby, persevere.  You will have to win again, year after year. They only need to win once, and it is over.

Lesson #2: Initial “Death with Dignity” legislation is festooned with empty safeguards and unenforceable limitations. They will all prove a sham. This is not a “slippery slope,” it is a cliff stage. The inevitable end is death on demand.

Lesson #3: If you are contemplating an Advanced Care Directive, proceed with great caution.  This woman thought she was signing a Living Will.  It proved to be her death warrant.

After 2,000 years of physicians’ commitment to the highest principles of Hippocratic care, the role of life-affirming healer and that of professional poisoner have been once more joined.  There will be no turning back.

Richard A. Watson, M.D.

Past President CMA- USA