Reviewing Our Case: Depression’s Role

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We are entering the most critical weeks of the assisted suicide debate in Maryland, and reviewing the most critical concerns – which remain unaddressed – is well worth our time. 

The role of depression in patients’ decisions on end-of-life care absolutely cannot be ignored.  Why shouldn’t a depressed person receive treatment for that condition before they are even allowed to consider suicide?

Medical scholarship is very clear on the links between terminal illnesses and depression.  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”.

The assisted suicide legislation under consideration has no requirement for psychological evaluation by an expert.  The person’s regular doctor can suggest this, but we doubt that this will protect people.  Looking at Oregon in 2014, only 3 out of the 105 patients who used assisted suicide were referred for “formal psychiatric or psychological evaluation.” That’s less than 3%!

Still, proponents want to completely ignore the overwhelming consensus of the medical community when it comes to depression and end-of-life care.  Their concern with the mental health element of this conversation is that it would slow down patients’ ability to receive assisted suicide.

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.

Please let legislators know that the real concerns with this bill remain unaddressed.

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