The Christian Medical Association (CMA), the nation’s largest faith-based organization of physicians, today warned of the potential for pro-suicide ideology to seep into law and government policy. The organization pointed to pro-suicide influence in a controversial Veterans Administration (VA) manual and a section of the main House healthcare overhaul bill.
The VA manual, entitled, “Your Life, Your Choices: Planning for Future Medical Decisions,” was co-authored by Dr. Robert Pearlman, who unsuccessfully pleaded for a constitutional right to assisted suicide in a 1996 Supreme Court case.
The VA manual lists scenarios such as being in a wheelchair, needing kidney dialysis, or requiring a feeding tube and then asks the patient to consider whether those situations might make his or her life “Not worth living.”
Dr. Gene Rudd, Senior Vice President of the 16,000-member Christian Medical Association, said, “As physicians, we recognize the value of advance planning and counseling and appointing a personal healthcare proxy. The VA manual goes a step further, however, subtly raising with vulnerable patients the possibility that physical impairments might make their lives, in the words of the manual, “not worth living.”
Section 1233 of that bill calls for government funds to pay healthcare professionals to give patients “an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders, which shall include — the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family …”
“Imagine that you’re depressed. You found out last week you have cancer. You were told that with treatment you have a 50/50 chance of beating it. No one knows how sad you are; no one has asked.
“But now the end-of-life counselor suggests you should consider this: Your disease and treatment may be a burden on your family. The cost of treatment will be significant. You may accept treatment, or decline treatment and opt for comfort care. Imagine the impact of those suggestions on a vulnerable patient.”
“Such counseling may serve the government’s purposes in a bill explicitly designed to ‘reduce the growth in health care spending.’ But it does not serve the patient’s best interest.
“A physician must remain an impartial advocate for the patient — not for the government. Paying physicians and others to counsel patients regarding the end of life when the government will be paying for that patient’s end of life care creates a conflict of interest. Patients need to know they can trust us to give independent counsel — not government propaganda.”