The Corner

Health Care

Training Doctors How to Assist Suicides

(Pixabay)

In California, a death doctor named Lonnie Shavelson is trying to start an assisted suicide specialty. From the Medscape story:

Organizers of the National Clinicians Conference on Medical Aid in Dying (NCCMAID) did not debate the appropriateness of the practice or focus on policy and ethics but rather sought to train and educate clinicians who are willing to participate.

“The most imperative need is physician education and training,” said Lonny Shavelson, MD, board chair of the NCCMAID and founder of Bay Area End of Life Options.

“The law makes no provision for medical training; there is no formal system, and I believe that is one of the major barriers and a shortcoming of the law in every state where it is legal,” he told the audience.

I know Shavelson. Before California legalized assisted suicide, he was a part-time ER doctor who mostly pursued photo journalism rather than practice medicine. These days, Shavelson devotes himself to death doctoring, for $2000 a pop (as of 2016).

As far as I know, Shavelson is not a certified medical expert in the long-term treatment of serious illnesses like cancer or in the provision of palliative care, hospice, etc.

He has long been a committed pro-assisted suicide ideologue. How committed? As he described in his 1995 book, A Chosen Death, Shavelson watched a Hemlock Society leader he called “Sarah” murder a disabled man named Gene who changed his mind about being assisted in suicide.

Shavelson was present in Gene’s home by invitation as Sarah hands Gene a poisonous brew she prepared, saying, “O.K., toots, here you go,” as if she had merely poured him a beer. Gene drank the liquid and began to fall asleep as Sarah put a plastic bag over his head.

But then, suddenly, faced with the prospect of immediate death, Gene screamed, “I’m cold!” and tried to rip the bag off his face. But Sarah wouldn’t allow it. From Shavelson’s account:

His good band flew up to tear off the plastic bag. Sarah’ s hand caught Gene’s wrist and held it. His body thrust upwards. She pulled his arm away and lay across Gene’s shoulders. Sarah rocked back and forth, pinning him down, her fingers twisting the bag to seal it tight at his neck as she repeated, “the light, Gene, go toward the light.” Gene’s body pushed against Sarah’s. Then he stopped moving.

From what a reader can determine in his book, Shavelson never tried to stop Sarah and never reported the killing to the police. And we are supposed to trust such a man to become a leading medical figure in assisted suicide?

Also remember, Jack Kevorkian was a pathologist who never treated a living patient after medical school. Which brings up an old joke: What do you call the student who ranks last in medical school? Answer: “Doctor.”

Here’s the point: Doctors who assist suicides don’t need to be specially trained in treating a patient’s underlying medical condition. They don’t need to be experienced in spotting depression, signs of coercion, or mental illness. They don’t even have to be caring human beings.

They just need a license to prescribe lethal drugs and/or be otherwise be willing to help suicidal ill people take their own lives. What a disgrace to a venerable profession.

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