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At the center of the euthanasia debate are doctors. In their hands is the authority to act with regard to the early termination of human life.
When doctors graduate from medical school, who should decide if they live or die? The parents? The patients? The government?
In a perfect world, such a cruel question would never be asked. Not long ago, doctors were seen as an integral part of the community where they practiced.
Today, unable to make house calls, relying on exorbitant fees, often able to communicate only with their own kind, physicians are segregated and distanced from their patients and, indeed, from life itself.
The question for any compassionate person is this: Should doctors, whose very existence may be tragically painful for them and their loved ones, have the right to die?
Doctors are often doomed to a life of dependency. We know of several who are not even able to shop for groceries, do their laundry, fix their Mercedes or even clean up after themselves. Instead, they must hire attendants to perform the very basic functions that most of us take for granted.
Doctors are also pathetically reliant upon nurses to tell them how well they are doing, cover up errors and run interference with patients and their families.
Merely to survive, doctors are dependent upon a battery of medical assistants, receptionists, secretaries, accountants, tax lawyers and insurance agents.
Many feel that doctors would die of starvation if their Diners Club card, an artificial means of life support, were withdrawn. Recent articles in respected journals have raised the question of whether doctors have enough awareness of pain to experience suffering.
Having a doctor in the family can, and often does, cause severe stress to even the most stable and financially secure family. It is not unusual for parents to exhaust their financial resources in order to meet the needs of the medical student.
Because of the rising number of doctors, there is a greater need for special education, housing, extensive residencies and teaching hospitals. All are expensive and a drain on government funds as well as family savings.
But the worry is far from over if the medical student should survive to graduation. It takes more than $250,000 per year to support an average doctor's lifestyle, including expensive life supports such as country clubs, tanning parlors, medical societies, European cars, malpractice insurance and decorator furnishings for their offices.
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Who foots that bill? Society does.
Doctors have high rates of drug addiction, debt, divorce and suicide, not to mention high golf scores. Despite the sacrifices made by their families and by society, they are often unable to acquire even rudimentary social skills.
Of course their large incomes are a comfort to some who seem to have come to terms with their condition, but the question remains: Is it fair for so many to suffer?
What is the most humane, honest choice for these people? This is the ethical dilemma facing our generation.