A Doctor’s View of Helping Terminally Ill Patients End Their Lives

Cure sometimes, treat often, comfort always…Hippocratic Oath

Five things stood out for me in this powerful article by Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, a family physician in Santa Cruz, California:

  1. Most people who request “aid-in-dying medication” do not use it.  Fewer than one in 20 who request it end up ingesting the prescription for compounded medication for aid in dying.
  2. At end of her life, Dr. Soquist Forest’s mother shared with her something that Dr. Soquist Forest had heard from every person she had a conversation with about the aid-in-dying program.  “To have the option of medical aid in dying among all options provides unimaginable peace of mind and empowerment.”
  3. Aid-in-dying programs reduce the number of people who die in hospitals, hooked up to machines while increasing the use of palliative care and hospice.  
  4. The aid-in-dying criteria in California requires patients to have less than six months to live, have the ability to take medication on their own, and have the capacity to make their own medical decisions. This means that people with the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias do not qualify.
  5. The cause of death on the death certificate for an aid-in-dying patient will be the underlying disease, not suicide, by law.

This is an important article for families, medical professionals, and aging boomers, a clear and compassionate discussion about the ultimate control issue all seniors will face at the end of life.

Read the full article here

Related article: Conversations at the End…

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