Deadly Compassion (Part 1 of 3)

Some support physician-assisted suicide out of fear of a lonely, pain-filled death. Here are four professionals who are making the dying a part of the church's ministry.
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A Michigan physician thought carefully about what he would say to a cancer patient about the results of his latest tests. The news was not good—his patient was near death and needed to be told so directly. This part of the job never became easy—it was never "routine." As gently as possible, the doctor started to speak. But the patient cut in: "Please don't tell me you'll be willing to talk about physician-assisted suicide," the patient pled. "I just don't want to hear it."

The doctor was shocked. Assisted suicide was the last thing on his mind, but in Michigan, the chosen haunt of assisted-suicide specialist Jack Kevorkian, it is apparently on many dying patients' minds—and it is radically changing their feelings about their physicians.

Diane Komp, a hematologist/oncologist at Yale University and a popular Christian author, has for years gone by the moniker "Doctor Di." In the course of a book and speaking tour through Michigan in the fall of 1996, several emcees made nervous references to "Doctor Die." As it happened again and again, Komp realized that physician-assisted suicide (PAS) advocates had accomplished just what they set out to do: For good or for ill, physician-assisted suicide was now on everybody's mind.

Advocates of physician-assisted suicide have tapped into the frightened psyche of our aging and ailing population, addressing a fear that, unfortunately, politicians, physicians, and the church are refusing to address: We die differently than we used to, and many of the elderly have plenty to fear.

Less than a century ago, death was spread fairly evenly across most age groups. Because we could not control bacteria very well and accidents were more common, a 10-year-old was scarcely more likely ...

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