Argument: Euthanasia option can disincentivize sound end-of-life palliative care

Supporting quotes

Physicians for Compassionate Care. “Top 10 FAQs”. 2006 – “Once a patient has the means to take their own life, there can be decreased incentive to care for the patient’s symptoms and needs. The case of Michael Freeland is an example. Michael had been given a lethal prescription and when his doctors were planning for his discharge to his home from the hospital, one physician wrote that while he probably needed attendant care at home, providing additional care may be a ‘moot point’ because he had ‘life-ending medication’. His assisted suicide doctor did nothing to care for his pain and palliative care needs. This seriously ill patient was receiving poor advice and medical care because he had lethal drugs.”

American Medical Association. Policy E-2.21 Euthanasia, 1996 – “Instead of engaging in euthanasia, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. Patients should not be abandoned once it is determined that cure is impossible. Patients near the end of life must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”[1]

Wesley Smith, J.D., writes in his 1997 book Forced Exit – “Studies show that hospice-style palliative care ‘is virtually unknown in the Netherlands [where euthanasia is legal].’ There are very few hospice facilities, very little in the way of organized hospice activity, and few specialists in palliative care, although some efforts are now under way to try and jump-start the hospice movement in that country… The widespread availability of euthanasia in the Netherlands may be another reason for the stunted growth of the Dutch hospice movement. As one Dutch doctor is reported to have said, ‘Why should I worry about palliation when I have euthanasia?'”[2]

Gary Lee, M.D., is quoted in Wesley Smith’s 1997 book Forced Exit – “Hospice commits to the patient and the family that we will take care of them, to nonabandonment… But if euthanasia becomes a standard of practice, too many times there would be a real incentive to do it. There are some patients whose proper care requires time and effort, professional services that aren’t necessarily paid for by insurance companies. I might say, ‘There has to be an easier way.’ I could too easily find myself seeing euthanasia as the simple answer; one that is less time consuming and the least expensive. If accepted, euthanasia could very easily take the place of proper patient care.”[3]

Kathleen Foley, M.D., and Herbert Hendin, M.D., write in the introduction to their 2002 book, The Case Against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care – “Given legal sanction, euthanasia, intended originally for the exceptional case, has become an accepted way of dealing with serious or terminal illness in the Netherlands. In the process, palliative care has become one of the casualties, while hospice care has lagged behind that of other countries…”[4]

Dr. John F. Scott, HUMANE MEDICINE VOL.8 #4.116. APR.1992 – “Over the next decade I predict the term, palliative care, will be “hijacked” by the euthanasia lobby. The deception is spreading that a person can have “death with dignity” only by choosing death through active or passive euthanasia. Unless we issue a strong challenge, palliative care may soon become a euphemism or synonym for choosing death, thus making a mockery of its origin as the active alternative to euthanasia.”[5]