My friend Julia died as we knew she would. Cancer had ravaged her body for a decade. She no longer could breathe. She was at home, under hospice care, when she asked for a dose of morphine that she knew would kill her but also keep her final moments free of pain.
I mention Julia’s death because a blogger named Jazz Shaw took issue with my Sunday column, “Assisted Suicide — It’s Civil Rights for the Affluent.” Doctors have been killing people with morphine overdoses for the past century or so, he wrote. And: “Forcing someone to suffer to the last bitter moment because you want to save them from burning in hell is not dignity.”
I don’t know any credible opponent of assisted suicide who opposes doctors administering needed pain control, including lethal doses if necessary. That’s how medicine is supposed to work. Doctors alleviate pain. They prescribe not with the intent to kill but to stop suffering. If a patient dies from needed pain control, so be it. That’s how a compassionate health care system should work.