I am a cancer doctor in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. Oregon’s assisted-suicide law applies to patients predicted to have less than six months to live. This does not necessarily mean that such patients are dying.
In 2000, I had a cancer patient who had been given a terminal diagnosis by another doctor of six months to a year to live. This was based on her not being treated for cancer. At our first meeting, she told me that she did not want to be treated, and that she wanted to opt for what our law allowed — to kill herself with a lethal dose of barbiturates.
I did not and do not believe in assisted suicide. I informed her that her cancer was treatable and that her prospects were good. But she wanted “the pills.” She had made up her mind, but she continued to see me. On the third or fourth visit, I asked her about her family and learned that she had a son. I asked her how he would feel if she went through with her plan. Shortly after that, she agreed to be treated, and her cancer was cured.
Several years later she saw me in a restaurant and said, “Dr. Stevens, you saved my life.”
For her, the mere presence of legal assisted suicide had steered her to suicide.
I urge the citizens of Massachusetts to vote no on Question 2.
The writer is vice president of Physicians for Compassionate Care.