Lawmakers shouldn’t rush to legalize assisted suicide

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The filing of a physician assisted suicide bill in the Maryland General Assembly continues to draw out strong opposition from across Maryland. In a recent letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Louis C. Breschi, a physician with more than 40 years experience in medical ethics, argues that the physician assisted suicide legislation is seriously flawed and does not give patients “death with dignity.” Read his full letter to the editor below and also on the Baltimore Sun website.   

As originally posted on on February 23rd, 2015 

As a practicing physician, I was disappointed to read about the proposed physician-assisted suicide legislation in Maryland (“Dying former official a focus of Maryland assisted suicide bill,” Feb. 14). The article ignores the serious flaws in the legislation, while not giving credit to the broad range of groups and individuals who are actively opposing the bill.

There are numerous reasons to oppose this legislation, and they aren’t just issues raised by religious or disability groups.

To begin, the bill does not require a patient to receive a psychiatric evaluation before receiving the lethal medication. Further, the legislation only applies to those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and six months or less to live.

To illustrate the inaccuracy of a six-month terminal estimate, a family friend this week was “discharged” from home hospice care because he was eating well, gaining well and felt better. Physicians’ prognoses for longevity are just that — general estimates that may or may not apply to individual cases.

Finally, no doctor or nurse is present when the lethal dose is taken. Patients must take up to 100 pills in order for the medication to be lethal — drugs they will pick up at the local pharmacy.

In some cases patients will ingest a lethal dose of a drug but fail to absorb most of the medication, causing acute intestinal distress and bodily discomfort. This is hardly death with dignity.

Unlike many bills considered by the General Assembly, this one literally is a matter of life and death. I can’t imagine how legislators could pass something that could cause preventable deaths, especially when this is the first time such a bill has been considered.

Louis C. Breschi, Towson

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