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Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide - Eliminate the Pain or Eliminate the Patient?

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Eliminate the Pain or Eliminate the Patient?

  Proponents of euthanasia argue that "mercy-killing" is necessary because patients, particularly those with terminal illness, experience uncontrollable pain(1). They argue that the only way to alleviate the pain is to eliminate the patient. But is there a better way? This essay proves that there is a better way, and this medical opinion is backed up by the best medical opinion available.


The better response to patients in pain is not to kill them, but to make sure that the medicine and technology currently available to control pain is used more widely and completely. According to a 1992 manual produced by the Washing ton Medical Association, Pain Management and Care of the Terminal Patient, "adequate interventions exist to control pain in 90 to 99% of patients."[2] The problem is that uninformed medical personnel using outdated or inadequate methods often fail in practice to bring patients relief from pain that today's advanced techniques make possible.


Doctor Kathleen Foley, Chief of Pain Services at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, explained in the July 1991 Journal of Pain and Symptom Management how proper pain management has mitigated patient wishes for assisted suicide:

We frequently see patients referred to our Pain Clinic who request physician-assisted suicide because of uncontrolled pain. We commonly see such ideation and requests dissolve with adequate control of pain and other symptoms, using combinations of pharmacologic, neurosurgical, anesthetic, or psychological approaches.[3]


In treating "Total Pain" [4], it should be remembered that the social and mental pain suffered by terminally ill patients may exace...

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...tional Cancer Institute, "Questions and Answers about Pain Control," (1992), pp. 43-51.

9. Matthew Conolly, M.D., letter to author, August 2, 1993.

10. Louis Saeger, "Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) in Caner Pain Management," Supra Note 1, pp. 149-53.

11. Ibid.

12. Chuck Michelini, "Patients Put in Control of Their Pain Medication," Medical Tribune (October 29, 1986): p. 46.

13. Gene Bylinsky, "New Gains in the Fight Against Pain," Fortune (March 22, 1993): p. 116.

14. Matthew Conolly, M.D., letter to author, August 2, 1993.

15. Jane M. Anderson, "Pain Management: Challenging the Myths," Medical World News (April 1992): p. 20.

16. David E. Weissman, June L. Dahl, and John W. Beasley, "The Caner Pain Role Model Program of the Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative", Journal of Pain and Symptom Management v. 8 (January 1993): p. 29.

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