A French doctor was convicted of euthanizing a cancer patient. Good. According to the BBC report, she was given a suspended sentence, after stating that she decided to resort to a lethal injection after Druais had told her that she did not want to die “in filth” the French news agency AFP reported. But proper medical care does not permit dying to die “in filth.” Didn’t the good doctor assure her patient of this?
Such taps on the wrist are not good. There should be some real consequences for acts of this kind, even if based on a motive to alleviate suffering. Suicidal patients should have their concerns addressed. They should be assured that their pain will be alleviated and that they are not burdens. They should not be killed.
Worse, French politicians are beginning to speak about legalizing euthanasia. Now, there may be some confusion about what that means. In Europe, removing unwanted life support is sometimes called euthanasia–as in a recent Italian controversy. But this ignorant quote from the conservative candidate for President reveals the extent to which the people and leaders of France need to be educated about end of life care. From the story: Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate for the ruling conservative party, suggested he might favor a law permitting euthanasia, saying recently: “Faced with suffering, we can’t just sit there doing nothing.”
Well, of course not! Hospice and other forms of palliative interventions–when properly provided–alleviate tremendous suffering. Even in cases such as AIDS. I remember interviewing one of the doctors at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. Out of 1700 AIDS patients they cared for (by that time, which was several years ago), only 2 had asked for suicide and they changed their minds when proper interventions were applied.
If the media spent half as much time highlighting the tremendous opportunities to alleviate suffering through ethical medical means rather than repeatedly highlighting killing as an acceptable answer to the problem of human suffering, it would be better for all of humanity.