Marlowe's Shade

Monday, April 18, 2005

Thousands Being Euthanized in the US Every Year.

Possibly even tens of thousands.

Ron Panzer, founder or Hospice Patient Alliance commented back in 2000 on a study done in 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A total of 355 oncologists (72.6% response rate) were interviewed on euthanasia and PAS. On 2 screening questions, 56 oncologists (15.8%) reported participating in euthanasia or PAS; 53 oncologists (94.6% response rate) participated in in-depth interviews. Thirty-eight of 53 oncologists described clearly defined cases of euthanasia or PAS. Twenty-three patients (60.5%) both initiated and repeated their request for euthanasia or PAS, but 6 patients (15.8%) did not participate in the decision for euthanasia or PAS. Thirty-seven patients (97.4%) were experiencing unremitting pain or such poor physical functioning they could not perform self-care. Physicians sought consultation in 15 cases (39.5%). Overall, oncologists adhered to all 3 main safeguards in 13 cases (34.2%): (1) having the patient initiate and repeat the request for euthanasia or PAS, (2) ensuring the patient was experiencing extreme physical pain or suffering, and (3) consulting with a colleague. Those who adhered to the safeguards had known their patients longer and tended to be more religious. In 28 cases (73.7%), the family supported the decision. In all cases of pain, patients were receiving narcotic analgesia. Fifteen patients (39.5%) were enrolled in a hospice. While 19 oncologists (52.6%) received comfort from having helped a patient with euthanasia or PAS, 9 (23.7%) regretted having performed euthanasia or PAS, and 15 (39.5%) feared prosecution.

The key to this are the two coincidentally identical percentages: the 15.8% of the oncologists who were involved with euthanasia or patient assisted suicide, and the 15.8% of that segment where the patients "did not participate in the decision for euthanasia or PAS" (patient assisted suicide). Meaning they were euthanized based on the doctor's decision. It's an important point because as wrong as I believe PAS to be, at least there is complicity by the patient. Although the textbook definition of euthanasia would leave room for it's interpretation to be either voluntary or involuntary, in this context the use of the term is clear that it is not voluntary. Thus euthanasia is more serious by any criminal or moral standards.

Using those figures and factoring in over half a million cancer patients a year (based on 2000 estimates) Panzer's calculation comes up with a shocking figure of 13,783. Granted the purpose of the study was more general and a larger sample would be needed to validate the findings, but this is still outrageous. Even if the number was off by a factor of ten, even 1300 euthanized patients every year is a staggering amount. And this doesn't account for other types of patients that have also been reportedly targeted for euthanasia who suffer from other lingering illnesses, depression or Alzheimer's.

I don't know what else I can add to this, but two other findings caught my eye:

...[nine oncologists](23.7%) regretted having performed euthanasia or PAS...

Only one third of cases are performed consistently with proposed safeguards.

Two very different issues, but both are outcomes of the same catastrophic error...doctors playing God.
papijoe 10:53 AM