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Patients and Caregiver Stories

Physician-assisted suicide won't atone for medicine's 'original sin'

Centuries from now, one of the things our era will be known for is the plague of dying badly.

I’m proud of being a physician and a lifelong political progressive. I ardently believe in human rights. But there are some things doctors must not do. Intentionally ending patients’ lives is chief among them.

Prolonged suffering before death emerged as a public health crisis in the mid-20th century. This first-world scourge, so persistent that few dare to imagine it can be eradicated, is a direct result of modern medicine’s original sin: believing that we can vanquish death. Given doctors’ success at saving lives threatened by severe injuries and infections, they presumed they could overmaster death. Yet despite the prowess of 21st-century medicine, my colleagues and I have yet to make a single person immortal. Instead, we have condemned countless incurably ill patients to needless anguish.

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