(AgapePress) - An Oregon cancer specialist says euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide have very real and devastating effects on the doctors performing these procedures. According to Dr. Kenneth Stevens of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), anecdotal evidence suggests that healthcare professionals who "help" their patients die are often deeply affected.
Most media reports on physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia focus on the patient and how the patient and his or her family are feeling, Stevens notes. He says that is why he thought it important to examine and evaluate medical and public literature to learn more about the impact of "mercy killing" on the doctors involved.
Overwhelmingly, when doctors are honest about it, most admit experiencing a negative impact from intentionally ending a patient's life, Stevens observes. "What I found is that the emotional and the psychological effect on that participating physician can really be very substantial," he says.
Committing euthanasia "represents a shift away from the sentimental values of medicine to heal and promote human wholeness and moves to a position where the doctor is causing the death," the CMDA spokesman explains. "And doctors have described being profoundly adversely affected," he adds. "They're shocked by the sadness of the death."
A committee in the British Parliament turned up some similarly compelling testimony from doctors in the Netherlands, where euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are legal, Stevens points out. He says one Baroness Finlay, a member of the House of Lords and a physician, asked several Dutch doctors the question, "The first time you performed euthanasia, how did you feel about it as a clinician?"
The Christian MD notes, "The response by one doctor was 'Awful.'" Meanwhile, he says, another Dutch doctor's reply was, "It is not a normal medical treatment. You never get used to it." Apparently, even in a country where doctor-assisted death has been legal for years and physicians have had much more experience with these practices, for many there is simply no getting used to the idea of causing a patient's death.
And according to news media accounts, Stevens points out, similar testimony has come from doctors in Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is also legal. He says for these and other medical professionals who practice physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, this shift away from the traditional role of healer has left them with feelings of shock, powerlessness, and isolation.
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