The Maine Legislature ponders legalizing physician-assisted suicide. A recent article quotes a Maine physician who supports it because a terminally ill patient committed suicide and because he is “encouraged by the research coming out of Oregon.”

Beware of any solution to a problem that involves killing people.

The so-called research is unreliable. Physicians are required to lie on the death certificates by stating the patient died of their disease rather than the actual suicide. The doctor who gives the lethal dose fills out a form that no one verifies. He or she is immune from legal prosecution even if the suicide is botched; imagine that. The public, including doctors and elderly/disability rights groups, are blocked, by law, from access to the patients’ health care records. The only data released by the state bureaucracy has been screened and selectively presented to the public.

To be encouraged by such research is naïve and dangerous to patients, their families, physicians, and society.

Experienced, well-trained hospice care professionals can recognize and compassionately manage the physical and emotional suffering that can arise with a terminal illness.

Legalizing physician-assisted suicide is not about giving patients the right to die. Suicide is not illegal. It is about giving physicians the right to kill. For thousands of years, physicians have made a public profession to “first, do no harm.” The Hippocratic Oath was a response to a society where physicians were killing patients. It has become clear over the subsequent centuries that excellent healthcare demands an irrevocable trust between doctor and patient.

So now, in Maine, after over five thousand years of a sacred trust, we think it’s a good idea to make our doctors killers?


Brian O’Donnell, MD


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