Recent broad interest in euthanasia and assisted suicide by society
at large has prompted this review of euthanasia. This fine, concise,
and readable book completely defines the issues, both moral and
professional, that are central to the euthanasia debate.
The author argues that the failure to adequately treat the pain
and other symptoms experienced by the terminally ill patient is
confused with a lack of choice and dignity in the dying process.
He notes that the poor education and training in pain and symptom
management received by health-care professionals often results
in uncontrolled symptoms, during which time a patient may request
euthanasia. Despite this situation, however, terminal patients
rarely ask for euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Insights into patients' reasons for requesting assisted death
are descriptively portrayed in case presentations arising from
the author's personal experiences as a hospice physician.
Traditional arguments against euthanasia are enumerated briefly
but effectively: The "slippery slope" argument holds
that the few cases of euthanasia that may appear to be justified
could result in a vast number of immoral executions. Also, any
law legalizing euthanasia could easily extend its indications
beyond mercy killing. Moreover, according to the author, the diagnosis
and, more likely, the prognosis of "terminal" cancer,
are frequently incorrect. Of major concern to the medical profession
is that legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide will bring
about the irreversible destruction of the doctor/patient relationship.
Another concern is that the right to die will soon become the
duty to die.
Recent voter referendums on euthanasia are described in some detail,
along with the prohibition of euthanasia by the world's major
religions. The frightening experience with euthanasia in Holland
provides a major incentive against any nation's adopting a myopic
view on this issue.
Finally, the book describes, in excellent detail, the use of opioids
in cancer pain management. Also, the hospice alternative is explained
fully and expertly.