Physician aid-in-dying has been a controversial topic in the medical community, with opponents referring to it as physician-assisted suicide. Dr. Robert Klitzman, Academic Director of the Master of Science in Bioethics program, explains that their perspective suggests patients want to give up on their life. “In fact, these patients want to live, but realize that they are facing death, and want to avoid unnecessary suffering and die with dignity,” Dr. Klitzman said.
As medical professionals, physicians are trained to always help their patients. According to Dr. Klitzman, one term always frightens doctors and patients: futility. It is often easier to continue treatment, even when progress seems minimal. However, for some patients, life may not be worth the immeasurable suffering of an incurable disease. Currently, only six states and the District of Columbia have legalized physician aid-in-dying and limited the option to individuals with terminal diseases who have six months or less to live.
“At a certain point, the suffering of ongoing treatment does not constitute a life worth living,” Dr. Klitzman said. “I hope other patients and families might consider these issues while they still can, and that policymakers and voters allow patients to have this option in carefully specified and monitored circumstances.”