Dr. David Stevens is the chief executive officer of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, a national organization of Christian health care professionals that seeks to change hearts in health care. Dr. Stevens is a medical doctor that has also spent multiple years as a missionary doctor.
Jim got right to the heart of the matter by asking the following question: Is physician assisted suicide actually death with dignity?
Dr. Stevens explained that it’s neither death with dignity nor is it compassion. Compassion is coming alongside someone and helping them bear their burden. Doctor assisted suicide is actually an escape from compassion because after death the doctor doesn’t have to be compassionate anymore. All it does is give enormous power to health care professionals, so for that and other reasons, Dr. Stevens believes this practice is very dangerous.
Physician assisted suicide was taking place 2,000 years ago before Hippocrates. The trouble was, you didn’t know what the doctors were going to do to you. Then Hippocrates came along and communicated that the foundation of health care is trust and from that came the Hippocratic oath. Doctors that followed this said they won’t give a deadly drug, abort a baby, betray a confidence or take sexual advantage of a patient. These are things that made Western medicine prosper and it’s guided us for over 2,000 years.
Is this oath still taken by those entering the medical profession? The CMDA did a survey on this point and found that some schools allow their 4th year students to get together and decide whether they want to follow the oath or not.
It was about 25 years ago that things began to change. Some may remember Jack Kevorkian who was instrumental in putting this subject ‘on the map’ in the 1990’s. Today we have groups such as Compassion in Choices out of Oregon that fosters legislation in favor of physician assisted suicide and they’ve been quite successful.
Physician assisted suicide is currently legal in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, Colorado and it’s tolerated in Montana.
So is Dr. Stevens concerned that we’re entering a time when we may see our physician and not know whether we’ll be receiving help or harm? Dr. Stevens believes that’s true.
What, then, does the future hold for safeguards in the health care industry? Will the advancement of physician assisted suicide render such safeguards as mere suggestions? Dr. Stevens believes that safeguards are impossible to monitor. In fact, in the states where physician assisted suicide is legal, doctors are required to file a report. They take that report and enter it into a database and then it’s destroyed. In other words, it’s impossible to go back and find out if the patient was coerced. The patient is now dead and the doctor isn’t talking.
Another problem related to physician assisted suicide involves the claims made as to how long a patient may have to live, when study after study has shown that doctors are notoriously inaccurate when making such prognostications.
This program offers much more on this subject from Dr. Stevens, as well as input from Crosstalk callers.
Christian Medical and Dental Association