Stories of dying overlook palliative care

Re: “Dying words,” Jan. 14, and “After 55-year bond, couple denied assisted death together,” Jan. 19.

I was disturbed that within less than a week the Times Colonist chose to document three cases of medically assisted suicide on its front page. In the first instance, the article propagated the myth that the alternative is a painful death (no mention of palliative care). On the Jan. 19 front page, at the lower right-hand corner, two lines refer to the 914 deaths in B.C. from drug overdose in 2016.

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Could there be a connection? The drug overdoses were, of course, self-administered. But the people who died from “medical assistance in dying” were also given a drug overdose, at their request, by a physician.

The issues with assisted suicide have not gone away. A fundamental problem is that most people with chronic pain, cancer or progressive neurological disease do not want to die or be killed. But in contrast, many who are marginalized, have mental illness and/or addiction issues might be persuaded.

Suicides can behave like an infection. And naloxone is not a cure. Before the introduction of our new law, Canadian Physicians for Life warned that there is good reason as well as compelling medical literature to support the idea that medically assisted dying would lead to an increase in self-administered suicide. Not all the 914 overdose deaths will be recorded as such. But it looks as if their prediction has already come true.

Richard S. Taylor, MD

Victoria

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