Sherwin Nuland, M.D. Clinical Professor of Surgery, Yale School of Medicine. “Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in Practice,” New England Journal of Medicine. February 24, 2000 – “If the prevention and relief of suffering are the aims of medical interventions — and not only the preservation or prolongation of life — it seems imperative to rethink our profession’s reluctance to participate in euthanasia or even be present during an assisted suicide without legal guarantees of protection.
Many opponents of these practices point to the Hippocratic Oath and its prohibition on hastening death. But those who turn to the oath in an effort to shape or legitimize their ethical viewpoints must realize that the statement has been embraced over approximately the past 200 years far more as a symbol of professional cohesion than for its content. Its pithy sentences cannot be used as all-encompassing maxims to avoid the personal responsibility inherent in the practice of medicine. Ultimately, a physician’s conduct at the bedside is a matter of individual conscience.
The wisdom of past years and moments enters into the deliberation, but decision making in the present bears a burden that is unique to the particular transaction between the doctor and the individual patient who has come for help. To seek refuge in ancient aphorisms is to turn away from the unique needs of each of our patients who have entrusted themselves to our care.”