Author, attorney, and ethicist Wesley J. Smith recently penned a column outlining a serious problem in European countries like Belgium: Doctors and nurses are quitting because of euthanasia and assisted suicide.
You become a doctor or nurse to be a healer palliator of people in serious pain and distress. You have a special place in your heart for the dying, and so you enter the specialized field of palliative care and hospice medicine.
But then, your country decides you should also become killers of the patients you want to succor. If you refuse, you face public criticism, the prospect of being sued, and perhaps one day, professional censure.
What do you do? If you are an ethical professional, rather than be complicit in homicide, you leave the field.
Doctors who specialize in end of life care and pain management — such as palliative care doctors in hospices and long term care facilities — are being forced to choose between their convictions and their careers.
One Belgian doctor said, “palliative care units are . . . at risk of becoming ‘houses of euthanasia’, which is the opposite of what they were meant to be.”
This is a disturbing trend. Palliative care offers terminally-ill people relief from pain and the opportunity to spend quality time with family as they near the end of life. These doctors and nurses provide vital services to people who are dying and to their families. Unlike euthanasia and assisted suicide, palliative care offers actual relief from suffering — without poisoning or killing any patients.
As we have said time and time again, being pro-life is about much more than opposing abortion. We do not eliminate suffering by eliminating people who are suffering. We must respect the sanctity of human life at the end of life as well as at the beginning.