buttons to show

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oregon Doctor Speaks Out: "Help with Depression, not Suicide"


I am a physician practicing medicine in Oregon where physician-assisted suicide is legal. I disagree with a writer's assessment that Oregon's law has worked well.

As one example, a few years ago, my patient, a 76 year-old man presented with a sore on his arm which turned out to be cancer. I referred him to an cancer specialist for evaluation and therapy. He was an avid hiker and as he went through his therapy, he became less able to do this activity and became depressed, which was documented in his chart.

He expressed a wish for assisted-suicide to the cancer specialist, but rather than taking the time and effort to address his depression, or to contact me as his primary physician and as someone who knew him, she asked me to be the "second opinion" for his suicide. I told her that I did not concur and that addressing his depression would be better than simply giving him a lethal prescription. Unfortunately, two weeks later my patient was dead from an overdose prescribed by this doctor.

In most jurisdictions, suicidal ideation is interpreted as a cry for help. In Oregon, the only help my patient got was a lethal prescription intended to kill him.

Don't make Oregon's mistake.

Charles J. Bentz, MD
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics Oregon Health & Sciences University Portland