“I have long favored legalizing physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients whose suffering cannot be relieved in any other way, and I was the first of the original fourteen petitioners to put the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act on the ballot in November. In 1997, as executive editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, when the issue was before the US Supreme Court, I wrote an editorial favoring it, and told the story of my father, who shot himself rather than endure a protracted death from metastatic cancer of the prostate.
It seems to me that, as with opposition based on whether the physician is ‘active,’ the argument that physicians should be only ‘healers’ focuses too much on the physician, and not enough on the patient. When healing is no longer possible, when death is imminent and patients find their suffering unbearable, then the physician’s role should shift from healing to relieving suffering in accord with the patient’s wishes. Still, no physician should have to comply with a request to assist a terminally ill patient to die, just as no patient should be coerced into making such a request. It must be a choice for both patient and physician.”Oct. 11, 2012