Don’t want physician-assisted suicide? Then don’t get one, is one of the arguments we often hear from proponents of assisted dying. Same goes for physicians: Don’t want to be involved in the process? You don’t have to – or so they say.
In states where physician-assisted suicide has been legalized, doctors are technically not obliged to take part in any of the steps leading to a patient’s assisted death.
However, the same groups advocating for supposed freedom of choice are undermining the legitimacy of physicians who choose to opt out.
The following quote, for example, can be found on the California Death with Dignity official website:
“If your physician declines to participate [in physician-assisted suicide], you should evaluate your relationship with that doctor. While it is your physician’s right to opt out of participating in the California End of Life Option Act, these kinds of statements are a possible red flag that s/he may not practice patient-centered care or be less willing to provide you with adequate pain medication or provide an early referral for hospice or palliative (comfort) care.”
The message is clear. You’re either actively for physician-assisted suicide, or you’re a bad doctor. Mere tolerance is not enough.
Pro-PAS groups may claim that any reasonable healthcare professional will have no problem participating in assisted suicide. However, statistics beg to differ. A year after the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in California, about half of patients who are prescribed lethal drugs still cannot get them from their own doctor.
Dr. Neil Wenger, professor of medicine at UCLA, told NPR that only a small number of California doctors openly oppose the End of Life Option Act, but many of those in favor still refuse to be involved in the process. “It raises a lot of feelings on the part of the doctor,” he says. “It is something very, very different than what a doctor does — which is saving people.”
Except now physician-assisted suicide proponents want doctors to do something else—end people’s lives. And those who don’t go along with this new and distorted vision of medical care will have their integrity — and by extension their careers — called into question.