Dr. David Reese expresses his ambivalence toward physician-assisted suicide ("When the Mission Is Suicide," Aug. 27); I cannot help but wonder if Dr. Reese has ever intimately experienced the death of a loved one (not a patient) from cancer or any other terminal, wasting, painful disease. If he had, I can guarantee his ambivalence would vanish. Witnessing the daily suffering and deterioration of someone dear is enough to convince anyone of the need for a merciful, humane way of sparing such patients the agony of a protracted, inevitable death.
I watched my father, a courageous and stoic man, succumb to the ravages of metastatic prostate cancer over a period of several months. A merciful physician could have spared him and his family the nightmare of his needlessly drawn-out death. Why must a 2,000-year-old oath--or worse yet, someone else's religious convictions--force good people like my dad to endure pointless and profound suffering? Physicians must offer the option of a self-controlled and pain-free death to their terminally ill patients who ask for it, and for whom no hope of recovery remains. Failure to do so is cruel, and it is wrong.