My name is Lynne Caulfield. I am a registered nurse and native Vermonter from Dummerston. It is a sad day in Vermont when our lawmakers are asking healthcare professionals to help human beings to die rather than extending compassionate and respectful care to ease pain and suffering. Doctors and nurses have pledged an oath to “do no harm”. The American Nurses Association says in its code of ethics that,” the nurse shall not participate in assisted suicide”. To expect a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of barbiturates is the ultimate violation of ethics and conscience. Doctors and nurses have a high calling to be healers, comforters and consolers, not to be the executioner!
Doctor prescribed suicide is not needed in Vermont especially with the advancements in pain management and palliative care medicine.
My husband, Jack was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Dec 2002. On two different occasions during his three and a half year battle with cancer, the doctors told him there was no hope, the cancer had spread. He was devastated by this since he wanted to spend more time with his family and our 5 children in particular. On both occasions, the doctors had been horribly mistaken. His is not an isolated incident. Medical prognosis is not an exact science as we all know. Proponents of doctor prescribed suicide are peddlers of fear. Studies in Oregon show the predominant fear of sufferers was not of pain but rather of being a burden. What are we communicating to those we love?
Doctor prescribed suicide involves a doctor prescribing a lethal dose of barbiturates, 90 pills! End of doctor involvement. The patient has to take the pills home. There is no doctor present, no medical support or assistance. In the Netherlands, there is an 18-25% failure rate and then who do you call? Side effects besides failure to die include GI distress including nausea and vomiting. Panicked family members have called 9-1-1 to have their loved ones revived.
None of the dying patients I have cared for have been in excruciating pain. They have exited with grace and peace. It is a sacred moment to be present for someone when they breathe their last breath. We all need to be present for those we love.
We have a rich privilege to comfort the sick and dying and to extend compassionate and respectful care. That is the Vermont way.