Jeff Jacoby ( “What about do no harm?” Op-ed, Oct. 17) says that Hippocrates would reject Question 2. No surprise. As Robert Veatch of the Kennedy Institute of Medical Ethics has observed, “The old Hippocratic ethic saw the patient as a weak, debilitated, childlike victim, incapable of functioning as a real moral agent.” Until very recently medical paternalism characterized the attitude of too many American physicians. Doctors believed they could force life-preserving treatment on non-consenting, competent, terminally ill patients if the doctor believed refusal of treatment was “medically irrational.”
As a lawyer, teacher, and scholar, I was very much involved in the movement to establish the right of patients to decide for themselves when enough was enough. As a cancer patient, I am personally committed to the effort to have Question 2 enacted into law.