But 53.5% would not perform an abortion.
Medscape, an online medical news and opinion site, polled 10,000 doctors about their opinion on end of life care. The questions and percentages of answers are here. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage is here. (let me know if you can’t access these articles.)
* A plurality of respondents — 46% — were in favor of physician-assisted suicide in some cases. But 41% were opposed (the rest said “it depends”) and responses ranged from “I’d want it for me when the need arises” to “Assisted suicide is murder.” A majority of respondents (55%) said they wouldn’t halt life-sustaining therapy if they thought it was premature, even if the family demanded it.
* Defensive medicine — performing a procedure that isn’t medically necessary just to protect against future litigation — was judged unacceptable by 61% of respondents, while 16% said it was okay and 23% said “it depends.”
* Covering up mistakes that would cause no patient harm was called unacceptable by 60% of respondents, with the rest pretty evenly split between “acceptable” and “depends.” Almost 95% of respondents said failing to reveal a mistake that might cause harm wasn’t acceptable.
* Is it ethical to prescribe a placebo for a patient who wants treatment? More than 58% said no, and almost 24% said yes.
* What about hiding information about a terminal condition from a patient to help them keep their spirits up? Almost 60% said no way, while almost 15% said they soften the blow and “give hope even if there’s little chance” and nearly 2% said that unless the person is very close to death, they don’t tell them the severity of the disease.
* Some 86% said they’d report an impaired or incompetent friend or colleague to a superior or the state medical board, while 12% said it would depend and 2% said no. (A survey published earlier this year in JAMA found that 36% of physicians didn’t agree they should always report impaired colleagues.)
* Pharma industry gifts or perks should be refused because they might influence medical judgment, said 47%, while 37% said they don’t need to be turned down and 16% offered the ever-popular “it depends.”
* Should it be legal for a person to purchase organs for transplantation if the waiting list was too long? Most — 67% — said no, but 20% said yes and 14% said it would depend on the circumstances.
* Finally, we weren’t surprised to see that 83% of respondents said it was never okay to have a romantic relationship with a patient, even a former one, and less than 1% said it was okay to do so. (About 12% said it was okay six months after the patient switched to another doctor.) But we loved the comment from one respondent: “My wife can shoot a tight pattern of .45 caliber handgun rounds into the groin area of a paper target at 15 yards without difficulty.”
We are the only species having this conversation. That alone should stop anyone who would intentionally act to end another human’s life. We also have a history of condemning past societies for just this sort of action. The intent of medicine cannot be to ensure or precipitate death. We don’t cure suffering by ending the life of the one suffering.
What does your doctor believe? Have you let him and your family know about your end of life wishes?
(I wasn’t one of the docs polled. I may have received the invitation, but I don’t remember it.)
This is a pretty convincing sign of how split the medical field is on such issues.
Personally, I feel like I could accept most doctors’ decisions if based on personal moral choice and perception.
I think the heart of the question lies in how we define life, or quality of it. One doctor might say that life has an inherent irreplaceable quality that must be preserved. I would say that life only has positive quality so long as the person living it derives joy. I consider my life precious because I am in good health and have a good outlook on life. I would not consider the life of a 90-year old woman hounded by countless diseases, disabilities and other torments to be precious, or at least as precious as mine or as worthy of protecting. Naturally, I would still treat her if she or her family wished so; but I wouldn’t think to refuse a request for removal of treatment or even euthanasia, were there no legal consequences and I were sure the request had been well thought through.