The doctor’s oath demands that we listen to our patient

“My grandfather, an OB-GYN, stated his support for the legality of medical aid in dying as he was slowly dying from cancer. I remember a conversation in which he marveled that our society had no problem giving “aid in birth” by providing medication for pain in labor and childbirth, despite higher rates of C-section and maternal and infant mortality than with “natural birth.” Yet when it came to “aid in death” at the end of life, which could ease suffering once someone had a terminal diagnosis, we were resistant…

Who was I to decide whether a woman’s desire to have an epidural or “natural childbirth only” was more valid? Who was I to decide that someone’s legal desire to hasten their impending death was not as valid as a “natural death”?…I believe a physician cannot determine what constitutes suffering for our patients. In fact, our oath demands us to listen carefully to our patients and not judge.

“It is important to know that most people who request aid-in-dying medication do not use it. Fewer than one in 20 who request it end up ingesting the prescription for compounded medication for aid in dying…Most requesters go on to choose other options that the discussion opens up for them,..The aid-in-dying law facilitates a better dying experience regardless of whether they qualify for and choose aid in dying, simply by enabling physicians and patients to have that conversation.

“…clear evidence shows that it [Medical aid in dying] reduces the number of people who die in hospitals, hooked up to machines — a death most people likely would not choose — and actually increases use of palliative care and hospice. My institution offers the full range of options to prevent patient suffering at the end of life. From birth to death, I am able to support my patients.”

by Dr. Catherine Sonquist Forest, a local Santa Cruz family medicine physician who is currently the Medical Director of Stanford Health Care at Los Altos, California and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford School of Medicine.

Click for article 21 September 2017  “I’m a doctor. Here’s what it’s like helping terminally ill patients end their lives.”