Suicide prevention with a terminal patient?

Dr Toffler’s letter to the House Judiciary Committee regarding the New Hampshire, USA, Assisted Suicide Bill HB 1325:

Dear Members of the Committee:

I am a doctor in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. As a
professor of Family Medicine and practicing physician in Oregon for
over 30 years, I write to urge you to not make Oregon’s mistake and
vote No on HB 1325.

I understand that there was a question during your recent hearing
regarding the appropriateness of suicide prevention with a terminal
patient. Terminal patients, like other patients, will sometimes
express suicidal desires and ideation. Terminal patients, like other
patients do not necessarily mean it and may even want you to say
“no.” They may also be clinically depressed, i.e., colloquially not
in their “right minds.” With this situation, suicide prevention is
not only appropriate, but necessary to provide good medical care and
to avoid discrimination based on the patient’s quality of life as
perceived by the doctor.

In my practice, I have had well over twenty patients ask me about
participating in their suicides or giving them information about
assisted suicide. In every case I have explored the issues behind
their request, and then assured them that I will provide their
medical care to the best of my ability. At the same time, I also
strive to reflect and convey their inherent worth and my inability to
collude with their request to help end their life. I remember one
case in particular, the man’s response was “Thank you.”

To read more about that case and some of my other cases in Oregon,
please read my statement to the BBC, since re-titled as “What do
People Mean When They Say they Want to  Die?”

Please vote No on HB 1325,

Thank you,

William L. Toffler MD
Professor of Family Medicine

See further submission,

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