Friday, June 5, 2009

Death With Dignity

I just received a distressing email from Compassionate Choices about a man who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, whose doctor refused to give him the painkillers authorized by Michigan's Death with Dignity law. Like abortion, extreme pain killers are a choice that needs to be made both by the person requesting the service and the doctor. The doctor was not unusual. Mother Teresa refused extreme painkillers to the dying people she treated.
I do not claim to understand why any doctor would refuse to honor a dying person's request for painkillers. I remember my friend Laurel who feared becoming addicted to morphine during the final stages of her ovarian cancer. I told her, "If you can recover from this cancer, I'm sure you can shake this addiction. Right now the drugs are keeping you comfortable."
I totally support each person making what must be personal decisions. The email from Compassionate Choices ended a link to a sample letter you can discuss with or send to your doctor, so you can have a discussion of your wishes before you need to act on them. Here's the download link: http://www.compassionandchoices.org/documents/DoctorLetter.pdf

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