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Called To Heal Not Kill
By Marie Romagnano, RN (Oct 18, 2012)
I am a registered nurse and a medical case manager specializing in patients who have catastrophic injuries. My vocation and mission, as a medical professional, is always to heal and preserve life, never to harm, wound or kill. Question 2 titled Prescribing Medication to End Life, formally known as Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act, legalizes the taking of a life of a terminally ill patient with the help of a physician when s/he, afflicted with fear, pain, hopelessness or depression, requests to commit suicide. By mandating the physician to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to terminate the life of a human person, it radically changes the calling of the physician and other healthcare professionals from being healers to killers.
It may sound too drastic, but if we vote yes Nov. 6, on Question 2, we make a lethal weapon available to the patients who wish to take their own lives. We enable the physician to prescribe it with instructions on how to use it; we mandate the pharmacist to issue the "drug bullets"; we force the nurse to carry out the orders by bringing the drug bullets and helping the patient to aim the weapon properly and to put his or her finger on the trigger. The nurse has to watch the patient kill himself, clean him up, and report to the doctor that the patient has successfully killed himself. The family does not need to be notified of the patient's decision. "The attending physician may sign the patient's death certificate which shall list the underlying terminal disease as the cause of death." The true cause of death as a suicide is suppressed, and the medical record is legally falsified. The reality is that the physician, nurse, pharmacist, social worker, and other healthcare professionals assisted, directly or indirectly, in the patient's committing suicide.
By its tendentious arguments in favor of this legislation, the Massachusetts Death with Dignity Act through Question 2 creates a misleading impression that:
1. Medicine has no palliative care or ability to manage pain.
2. Doctors are psychic and are able to predict death "within six months".
3. Psychological sciences the lack ability to manage depression.
4. Pastoral care lacks the ability to assist the hopeless and the despairing.
5. Nurses, Social Workers, and families lack the ability to manage catastrophic illnesses.
6. Healthcare Professionals lack conscience and have no qualms about being a part of the killing team.
Therefore, this act manipulates people into believing that "the public welfare requires a defined and safeguarded process" on account of the experience of great suffering and lack of control over end of life. "This act, being necessary for the welfare of the Commonwealth and its residents, shall be liberally construed to effect the purposes thereof."
These unspoken assumptions are false, groundless, and misleading, as adequate resources to manage physical, emotional or spiritual pain are available through palliative care, psychological and pastoral counseling, and a family's loving care. Doctors are frequently wrong in predicting the last six months of life, robbing the patient and the family time together.
Legalizing Rationing of Care
Further, this Act, once passed, gives the private and government insurer the ability to ration medical care — to deny expensive treatments for the terminally ill patient who paid for the insurance policy for the right to treatment and the possibility of remission or recovery from any illness or injury. Instead, they consider Physician Assisted Suicide as "reasonable and necessary care" and cover the low expense of the lethal drugs to kill the patient. Could this be construed as insurance fraud? Once again, Question 2 will give these insurers the ability to control the care of the patient in the cheapest manner, taking away the professional judgment of the physician to treat the patient, so the insurance company is now treating the patient, not the physician.
How far will this go? We have some indications that are highly disturbing.
In 2005, The New England Journal of Medicine published The Groningen Protocol — Euthanasia in Severely Ill Newborns. This Protocol includes a checklist on how to end the life of severely disabled newborns with pre-set guidelines and "norms regarding euthanasia in newborns."
According to Wesley Smith ("Euthanasia Spreads in Europe," National Review on Oct. 26, 2011), there is a rise of non-consensual termination of patients' life. There are reports that doctors in Europe end the life of coma patients, nurses kill terminally ill patients without a consequence, and surgeons harvest organs from euthanized patients.
God forbid that we imitate the history of Nazi Germany, when the medical community was recruited to rid the society of the unwanted. The Nurse Week article, "Cruelty and Courage: Nurses in the Nazi Era" (Oct. 18, 2004) illustrates this very dark place in medical history that should not be repeated. Through complicit actions of physicians and nurses following orders, the unwanted (that is, the elderly, mentally and physically handicapped, Jews, etc.) experienced degradation, cruel treatment, and death in the name of the greater good of German society. Medical professionals acted on humans as though they were animals, hurting profoundly the lofty nature of the medical professionals' vocation.
Physician Assisted Suicide, which is a form of euthanasia, cannot be accepted. It is always a taking of another person's life no matter how it is rationalized. Taking the life of the unborn, terminating the life of a disabled newborn, or assisting an adult in committing suicide is always morally wrong. It leads to the destruction of the society. It mortally wounds the souls of those who perpetrate it and endangers their salvation. It rejects the very revelation of God, His love and mercy for every human being. It transgresses the fifth commandment — "You shall not kill" — and the commandment of love: "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did to Me" (Mt 25:40).
Marie F. Romagnano, RN, BSN, CRC, CCM, CLCP
President, Med-Link, Inc.
Founder, Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, an official apostolate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception.
Author of Nursing With the Hands of Jesus: A Guide to Nurses for Divine Mercy