I'd like to respond to nurses who've expressed opposition to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. I've witnessed far too many tragic deaths during my years in critical care. The best way to treat pain and suffering isn't to medicate a person to the point of unconsciousness and eventual death. If a terminally ill person rationally decides to end her pain and suffering, it's not for me or anyone else to impose ethical or religious beliefs on her. Each person must make end-of-life choices that are consistent with her values.
Oregon's law that allows physician-assisted suicide has worked well for 8 years. Though it's seldom used, it's had a positive impact on end-of-life care in Oregon. Our state is a leader in pain management, percentage of people enrolled in hospice when they die, and percentage who die at home rather than in the hospital. Our state's physicians are among the best informed in the nation about pain management.
Having control over how one will end one's final days brings great comfort to many dying patients and their families. As a nurse, I believe it's my duty to honor my patients by recognizing their autonomy.
TERESA GROVE, RN, EDD