Assisted Suicide: What If It Were Me?
I recently edited a compelling article on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) written by Lisa Siminski, BSN, RN, CHPN, staff nurse, St. Luke's Hospice House, Bethlehem, PA.
In her report on PAS, Siminski points out straight away that the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics for Nurses "clearly specifies that nurses should not deliberately terminate the life of any person."
I can and do totally respect that.
I'm relived even, as I fully expect to be a patient in need of skilled nursing care in the future - perhaps sooner than later if the economy doesn't turn around - and want all nurses everywhere (and especially in southwest Florida where I live) to understand how much I appreciate and support ANA's position.
But I digress.
The day after the article posted on our website, I saw a report on a local TV news program about controversy surrounding a new billboard going up along Interstate 75, just north of us down here in Ft. Myers.
The billboard reads: "My Life. My Death. My Choice."
It's being paid for by an outfit called the Final Exit Network or FEN for short.
According to the report, in the past 5 years FEN has obliged 130 individuals in the U.S. who availed themselves of their services, which largely amounts to advice on available options, advanced directives and other information, such as which states have legalized PAS, as detailed in Siminski's report. Unlike PAS, FEN members have "no active participation" in the death of client, said a spokesperson.
The Catholic Church, for one, doesn't like the billboard or the very idea of the Final Exit Network for that matter, according to the news report I saw. Therefore neither would my elderly Irish-Catholic mother. And like it or not, those things matter in shaping my opinion on this issue. So sue me.
Perhaps above all else though, as an American, I cherish my freedom - and yours, too. And so I tend to think a person has a right to choose what they want to do with their body. Does that extend to people who intentionally harm themselves for any reason? Maybe.
But is choosing suicide to end immense physical suffering and intractable pain from injury or terminal illness necessarily harming one's self?
I really don't know, to be perfectly honest, and I would appreciate your insight and hearing about your experiences with this issue both as a nurse and an individual.
Seems I just end up asking myself, "What if it were me?"