Is physician-assisted death in anyone’s best interest? NO

This article was published in the Canadian Family Physician (April 2015) with an article supporting Physician-Assisted Death.

By Dr Edward (Ted) St Godard 

The issue of physician-assisted death is complex and emotional, and we must not allow truth to become a casualty. Medical professionals and laypersons alike struggle to understand distinctions between euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, and many more fail to distinguish either act from simple refusal or authorized withdrawal of treatment.1 We must demand and demonstrate a courageous and respectful clarity.

The expression physician-assisted death is what is kindly known as a euphemism. Euphemism is defined as “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt.”2 Writing recently in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik noted:

[E]uphemism is a moral problem, not a cognitive one. When Dick Cheney calls torture “enhanced interrogation,” it doesn’t make us understand torture in a different way; it’s just a means for those who know they’re doing something wrong to find a phrase that doesn’t immediately acknowledge the wrongdoing.3

The substitution of physician-assisted death, or the ubiquitous medical aid in dying (something I provide daily), for the more accurate if somehow distasteful euthanasia (itself a euphemism) or physician-assisted suicide, represents at best a misplaced attempt at decorum or delicacy,4 and often a deliberate obfuscation. That our journal, like the Canadian Medical Association, has stooped to using this language is regrettable and, frankly, embarrassing. It is not just semantics.

Link to the full article