Physician-assisted suicide is a flawed process, says professor of medicine


A bill legalizing physician-assisted suicide (PAS) was introduced in the 2019 Nevada Legislature. As an internal medicine physician in Nevada, I see many problems with this law and urge lawmakers to reject it.

This bill would make patients eligible for PAS if they have been diagnosed with a terminal condition and are likely to die within six months. The fact is that physicians frequently make errors with diagnosis and predicting timing of death in terminal conditions. My family has personal experience with this: My father was diagnosed with a malignant brain cancer (glioblastoma) and given a prognosis of less than six months to live. He survived for almost four years after his diagnosis. This is also well-documented in the medical literature: A study of hospice patients in the Chicago area showed that of 468 predictions of timing of death, only 20 percent were accurate. Inaccurate diagnoses or prognoses coupled with PAS will result in patients dying that may have years of life remaining.

The law will allow any doctor with a license in Nevada the power to prescribe lethal drugs to end a patient’s life. I trust many of my colleagues but there are always going to be some physicians that are unscrupulous, incompetent or unethical. That means this type of law can easily be abused. In Reno, Dr. Robert Rand contributed to the death at least one patient by overprescribing opioids. He did this for years even though opioids are the most highly regulated medications we can prescribe. The lethal drugs used for suicide will be much less scrutinized since there is no requirement for the federal government to monitor them. The law itself will protect the identity of the prescribing doctor, so no one will ever be able to determine if abuse is occurring. Do you trust every physician in Nevada?

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