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Controversy Over Assisted Suicide

May 01, 1996

It must be known that the AMA's policy considering assisted suicide as unethical is that of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs, as well as the policy of the AMA Board of Governors (letter, April 22). It is not necessarily the opinion of the majority of the physician members of the AMA, nor is it necessarily the opinion of the majority of all U.S. physicians, over 20% of whom are not members of the AMA.

Clearly, assisted suicide is not right or wrong. Its value and acceptability must depend on the individual situation. Surely, stringent safeguards, such as multiple physician opinions, the strong desire of a competent patient, the absence of psychiatric depression and the specific medical problem the patient has, are the pertinent factors.

The enlightened philosophical and intellectual mentation will prevail eventually, and I suggest that it be the allowability of medically assisted suicide in those cases where appropriate measures have been taken to justify this action.

MICHAEL H. SUKOFF MD

Tustin

* My wife died just a month ago of a breast cancer tumor in her lungs. She slowly suffocated to death as the tumor mass filled her lungs. At the time she was under hospice care here in our home and under the care of a doctor too. Only problem was the doctor never came to our home and the nurses seldom came.

My wife's biggest fear was to die of suffocation and she told me this many times and yet this is exactly what happened to her. My wife laid in her bed her last two days and gasped for breath, unable to sleep and unable to get comfortable in any position either. I had to watch her constantly as she would try to get out of bed and fall. There was not a nurse in sight at night to help her or me. She finally died in my arms. She just quit breathing and mercifully so, but no thanks to the medical profession or hospice care. Having been raised on a farm, I have put several wounded animals out of their misery but could not legally do this for my wife and could get no one to help me either.

Now the AMA wants to tell us it is their "ethical" position to not allow physician-assisted suicide. Poppycock! The public should unite and in one big voice demand this help for dying people.

JOHN B. MULLINS

Huntington Beach

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