Guest Opinion: Medical aid in dying bill is a slippery slope
Working with and listening to thousands of physicians, nurses, and other caregivers, I learned how strongly they embrace their oath to care for and keep the sick from harm and injustice.
As a long time health care leader and past president of a Catholic sponsored hospital and regional integrated delivery system in the rural Midwest, I must strongly object to the End of Life Option Act (house 1930 and senate 1813) backed by some Minnesota representatives and senators including Mike Freiberg, Andy Smith and Liz Boldon as reported in the March 8 Dispatch story.
Many proponents claim that newer safeguards are sufficient, and that legalization is not a “slippery slope” like to cite states such as Oregon as an example. They conveniently forget the genocide of Armenians, Rwanda, European Jews, and the recent (1975 to 1978) Cambodian mass murders that prove that the “slippery slope” is not in our distant past. Let’s not fall into human arrogance and think history won’t repeat itself. When we deviate from an absolute sanctity of life value given from the Divine, we open our communities up to the slippery slope of human wisdom which can sadly justify almost anything in defense of the common community good.
For all of us who follow a Christian world view our Catholic brothers and sisters have stated well the reasons that euthanasia and assisted suicide are gravely wrong. The foundation for this line of reasoning is that “we are made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). Since human life is the most basic gift from a loving God we as responsible stewards of life, must never directly intend to cause our own death or that of anyone else. Legalizing assisted suicide marginalizes the life of vulnerable patients and exposes them to the exploitation by those who feel they are better off dead.
Working with and listening to thousands of physicians, nurses, and other caregivers, I learned how strongly they embrace their oath to care for and keep the sick from harm and injustice. The good news is that caregivers have more tools today than they ever had in the past including palliative care to reduce pain and suffering at end of life. We know hopelessness is strongly correlated with depression and is a significant factor predicting the wish for death. With a host of improved antidepressants to treat depression the physician and their care team have tools to reduce suicidal ideation.
Lastly at the heart of medicine is the trust a patient places in the physician, nurses, and other care team members. Even though countries and states allowing assisted suicide is limited it appears the standard of care is not being followed. For example, the treatment of mental illness is frequently overlooked when physician assisted suicide is requested. Once that trust is eroded the foundation of patient care rests on a broken foundation. Killing is incompatible with caring!
Adam Rees is a Pequot Lakes resident and president of ACR Consulting. He previously served 35 years in health care leadership — 25 years at Mayo Clinic, and seven as Essentia Health Central Market President (Brainerd lakes area/Saint Joseph’s Medical Center).