Monday, August 25, 2014

Assisted suicide proposal ignores wrong diagnoses of terminal illness

Virtually every state’s chapter of the American Medical Association is opposed to assisted suicide, the reasons for which were absent from The Times’ recent editorial, “Death with dignity for the terminally ill includes crucial safeguards” (Aug. 10).

Studies show that diagnoses of terminal illness are very often wrong. A doctor may know someone has an illness, but determining how quickly it might kill the patient or even if it will kill him or her is difficult to determine. A wrong prognosis can easily lead patients into a spiral of hopelessness and to give up on treatment unnecessarily, thereby prematurely ending their lives.

In an age when almost every one of us knows someone who outlived their terminal prognosis, it’s important to remember that legalizing assisted suicide offers no second chances. No supposed “safeguard” can protect patients from deciding to die based on a faulty prognosis.

-- Eileen Fisher,