A doctor’s manifesto about terminally ill patients’ right to die.
While many Americans believe that the terminally ill should be able to choose to end their lives, the medical profession, the courts and the government mostly remain beholden to traditional and religious beliefs about the sanctity of life. Preston, a medical professor for more than 20 years, argues that it is time to re-evaluate those ethics in light of today’s technology and its ability to prolong life beyond its natural course. The author writes that confusion and misconception pervade most discussions about aid in dying. He distinguishes "patient-directed dying" or "aid in dying" from terms like "physician-assisted suicide” or "euthanasia." In his analysis, the word "suicide" should not apply to someone who is dying with no hope of recovery. Euthanasia, on the other hand, refers to someone other than the patient administering a lethal drug. Patient-directed dying is when a terminally ill individual is able to request and obtain a prescription for medication to end his or her life, under guidelines set to guard against abuse. Through four composite stories based on situations Preston has witnessed from counseling terminally ill patients and their families, he reveals the suffering caused by prohibitions against patient-directed dying. He adds that doctors must be more willing to care for patients when curing them is no longer possible, and recognize that exhausting every medical treatment, no matter how slim the chances of success, often just prolongs suffering. Preston states his case persuasively, illustrates the need for patient-directed dying as an option, counters arguments often made against it and suggests compromises to address concerns on both sides of the debate.
A thoughtful, well-presented argument about an issue many people face.