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Medical Aid Needed for Terminally Ill

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Medical Aid Needed for Terminally Ill

This is another letter relative to Arizona's struggle for legislation allowing medical aid in dying for the terminally ill, but from a different angle. It pertains to the listlessness (the kindest word for now) of our local medical community in getting involved with this issue which has a lot of traction with the public. As an activist working for enactment of this humane legislation, I am trying with little success thusfar to engage health professionals to help do the necessary work of advocacy. I have no real way of gauging how individual physicians, nurses, mental health professionals and so forth feel about aid in dying. My belief is that they have not been encouraged by reluctant professional organizations to confront the issues and their own feelings. After all, they are supposed to be healers (debatable in our health system) but truly there is no cure for death, though there may well be a cure for the torment of dying. That cure, we propose, is support for the dying in maintaining their autonomy and their choice to terminate torment, both personal, for their families, and yes, even for the feeling people who take care of them in their final days.

At this juncture, I will not specifically identify the various medical-related groups I have contacted which either have discourteously not responded at all or which are dragging their feet in deciding whether they can publicly come out in support of Aid in Dying Law. This is especially egregious here in Tucson since our city clearly favors such law and has officially notified the AZ Legislature to that effect. I must also add that the hospice community needs to examine itself in regard to why it, in large part, appears to be unsupportive. Palliative care is wonderful for those for whom it is sufficient, but why deprive the others of more choices? For those who are religious, we state that aid in dying for the terminally ill is not suicide, just another way of dying but with full consciousness.

—Dr. Freyda Zell, clinical psychologist (retired)

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