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Talking To Your Patients

It can be difficult for a doctor to talk about personal values with their patient.  Most were taught to take a therapeutic stance which prevents getting “too personal.”  This approach to patient care needs to be reconsidered in light of direct harm to our profession that physician-assisted suicide causes.  Assisted suicide directly assaults the role of the physician in society, it harms trust in the patient-physician relationship, and it places those who are most vulnerable at risk.  A main strategy of the pro-suicide movement is to marginalize us because informed physicians are the largest obstacle to their cause.  Don’t be marginalized.  “Taking the Pledge” can help limit the spread of assisted suicide.   If we as physicians want to maintain the integrity of our profession, we need to deal directly with this issue.  If your patient is nearing end of life, you can let them know you will make this journey with them and take a stance of unconditional positive regard: 

  • “I care about you and will continue to care for you as you go through this.” 
  • We will see this through together and I promise I will do my best to manage all of your symptoms, including pain. 

Following your conscience and displaying your views can also help improve the quality of care you give.  If this discussion leads to your patient asking you about assisted suicide, find out more.  It may be they are simply curious or they could be experiencing suffering.  You elucidate this by asking a few dignity conserving questions which can help you identify and address the underlying issues, leading to improved care and patient satisfaction.

 
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