Know the Facts Series: Depression’s Tragic Ties to Terminal Illness

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Our focus in these blog posts is to clarify false claims made by proponents of the assisted suicide bill before the Death with Dignity Workgroup.  We want you to take this information and be prepared to combat the misinformation used by physician assisted suicide proponents who will stop at nothing to get this passed.

As we said last week, the first Workgroup hearing on the Tuesday after Labor Day was full of moments that dismissed real concerns in unacceptable ways.  One of the critical points to expand on is he tie to depression.

We mentioned last week that Doctor Molly Strauss, a psychiatrist who offered testimony as a proponent of the bill, is calling for removal of the provision on psychiatric evaluation – that a measure like this would “prolong their suffering”.  The proponents who call for this are essentially arguing that their mental state should not be a consideration when it comes to making decisions about healthcare in the face of a terminal illness. 

These proponents are disregarding our healthcare system’s massive deficiency in mental health treatment, but the real aim is even more upsetting.  These proponents want to completely ignore the overwhelming consensus of the medical community when it comes to depression and end-of-life care.  We know that cancer patients with depression “experience more physical symptoms, have poorer quality of life, and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts or a desire for hastened death than are cancer patients who are not depressed”.

Proponents’ concern with the mental health element of this conversation is that it is too large a consideration.  We argue emphatically that it is too small.  What about the mental state of the families of a patient with a terminal illness?  Can we justifiably say that mental health is not a critical indicator when it comes to end-of-life care planning?

This conversation can’t be brushed aside.  Trying to rush people into end-of-life care decisions by cutting corners is not doing right by patients.

(This is a continuation of our series on the Death with Dignity Workgroup.  You can watch the entire Workgroup hearing at this link from the MD General Assembly)


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