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June 10th, 2011
06:03 PM ET

Ending one's life a right, doctor says

Dr. Lawrence Egbert is the former medical director for the Final Exit Network, a group that supports “the human right to a death with dignity.” Throughout his tenure with FEN, Egbert reviewed and processed hundreds of applications for assisted suicide. Below, in his own words, Egbert explains his philosophy. He’ll be a guest on "Sanjay Gupta, MD" this weekend (Saturday – Sunday at 7:30 a.m. ET) to defend his stance that suicide is a viable option to end pain and suffering.

My name is Lawrence Deems Egbert, but most friends call me Larry. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1948, the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1952, and was then called into the Navy. I served seven years, where I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Hospital in Philadelphia, as a resident specializing in anesthesia.

Not surprisingly I have given a lot of thought to [why I work with the Final Exit Network]. Being arrested and needing a criminal lawyer gets one’s attention! Simple answer: Such work needs doing and I have the technical background to help out.

A person is suffering unbearably. The situation is hopeless and the doctors are doing all sorts of “treatments” which are painful and do not seem to help very much. The situation is hopeless, over and over again, hopeless. There are a lot of such persons and some simply cannot stand it any more and want out. And I have the technical skills which could help them out.

Nowadays (at least until my arrest) people were asking me would I help them out of the hopeless situation. Oh, of course I could simply tell such a person where to buy a rifle. Many Americans opt out by using a rifle. I am told Canadians and Australians in the same fix opt out using a rope. And repeatedly I have heard that doctors find ways to not stay involved.

I like to think I am a person who says yes to such questions, at least sometimes. Odd, because I have said NO loudly and repeatedly to us “helping” the state with its executions, the so-called “lethal injections.” The difference is that the patient with the horrible disease has asked for such care. I have never offered to help a person die. Actually, I have helped with some people’s thinking it thru and deciding NOT to die right now.

I solidly approve of the idea that competent individuals suffering unbearably should have the right to end their lives when their quality of life is personally unacceptable and their future holds only hopelessness and misery. Such a right should include when to die, where, and how.

I do not believe our work has been illegal but it is quite obvious that some people think it immoral as defined by their religious faith. All I can do for such people is refer them to U.S. Constitutional Amendment # 1.

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Filed under: Death and Dying

soundoff (224 Responses)
  1. Mark

    I find it funny how people can complain about not wanting to let some one decide that they don't want to live any more and then with out missing a beat call them free loading pos for needing money from the government to help with medical costs. It would only make sense if you are not happy with life you should be able to end it then you are no longer a drain on the system so people who need medical assistance can receive it. Religion is great but it should not be used as a tool to control other peoples wishes ever.

    June 11, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • charles s

      Republicans only care about you before you are born or when you are brain dead. Then they will use the full might of the government to force their religious views upon everyone. So much for limited government. However once you are born, you are suppose to care for yourself and never receive any government assistance, let alone welfare. Heaven help you if you are unemployed or without health insurance because the Republicans sure will not help you.

      Once the Republicans gut Social Security by changing it to a glorified 401K and change Medicare to a voucher plan, then you will really have to use the Republican plan: WTYD (Work Till You Die).

      June 11, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse |
    • william

      Religion is entirely about controlling other people's actions, and I applaud those who opt out of spending their last days, months, or years in a hopeless, miserable, painful condition. Money should have nothing to do with it, but as always does, and we have to look at spending hundreds of billions of dollars on end of life care. There are no easy answers, but I think it best that we leave these issues up to the dying person.

      June 12, 2011 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
    • zDavid

      Nah, religion ain't that great.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse |
  2. Ryan

    I find it surprising that people have accepted this as a option. But I respect everyone's opinion. As medical advances take place a lot of people want to live life with no pain at all. I don't think this is a good thing. If I was in the situation of a severe illness I wouldn't give up. I would keep fighting until I can't fight anymore.

    Some people like to compare euthanizing dogs to doing it to humans. Humans have more dignity than a dog. If you had the option of saving either a baby or a dog. You picked the wrong choice if you saved the dog. I am not advising that animals should be treated like trash. Nature should be cared for and respected.

    June 11, 2011 at 11:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • David

      How is living in a diaper for 2 years and in so much pain that heroin didn't work for the last 5 months. I would have killed my grandfather in a heartbeat after I saw what those animals at the hospital put him through.

      June 11, 2011 at 20:28 | Report abuse |
    • Barbara

      I assume you are young and have never had to watch someone die in terrible pain. I have and I would not choose to put myself or my family through that. You probably haven't seen how many elderly are treated in nursing homes. We are kinder to animals.

      June 11, 2011 at 22:17 | Report abuse |
    • ks

      Barbara is correct we are kinder to animals. I watched my mom and a good friend suffer for two years.

      June 12, 2011 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
    • Paincanhurtdeep

      Have you ever experience deep agonizing pain that keeps you awake all night long and no matter what you do or take does not help the pain go away. Try experiencing this for days that turn into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. Pain can be exhausting physically and mentally not only for the one who is experiencing this pain but also for his or her family. I have not consider suicide an option for myself at this
      point in my life. But if a person is experiencing devastating pain and feels he or she needs to end his or her, I will not judge them. Instead, I will feel sad that there is nothing out there that can help. Pain is such a personal thing. Some of us can tolerate more pain then others. Ultimately, we all have a point at which pain becomes too much to handle and we can no longer control the pain. Instead, eventually the pain controls us.

      June 12, 2011 at 02:52 | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      My mother too suffered and died from an Alzheimer disease called Lewy Bodies. Alzheimer's first, Parkinson's shortly after that. It was a horrific death in a very short time. Her biggest fear was dying without dignity. It's a shame when it's our time to go, we should have to worry about whether or not we are allowed a dignified ending to our lives.

      June 12, 2011 at 08:22 | Report abuse |
    • CLC

      Not necessarily to dog have less dignity than a human. I've seen a lot of humans with a lot less dignity than a dog One is on trial right now for he death of her baby.

      June 12, 2011 at 08:49 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Ryan,

      You have to understand that most of the people who want this option do EXACTLY what you call for. You said "If I was in the situation of a severe illness I wouldn't give up. I would keep fighting until I can't fight anymore." The issue is when you reach that point. When you just can't fight anymore, then what should you be able to do? These aren't people who are just told "Hey you have cancer" and they suddenly think "Okay just kill me". This is for when there is no fighting left.

      June 12, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
    • Shanna

      Humans have more dignity than a dog? You're kidding, of course.

      June 12, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      You have not accepted this as an option if you opine that we should not stop the suffering of people. Easy for you to say that pain should be accepted and that it is important to do so. You brag that you would endure. Unless you have actually experienced pain that will not stop with no hope of being better then you have no idea what you are talking about. If you have not known the deep despair that worsens each day then you do not know.

      June 12, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • AGuest9

      @Shanna – I guess you know the wrong humans.

      June 12, 2011 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
    • Dr.J

      What will you do when you can't fight anymore? I know you assume that you would be dead at that point, but what if you aren't?

      I see, care for and council a lot of people at the end of their lives and in worse than death situations (yes, there are many). Death is a part of the living process and should be permitted WITH DIGNITY. Grace at the end of life is important, and we really take that from many people with our default philosophy of fighting the end off with all resources regardless of cost, both financial and physical.

      June 12, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
    • Al

      in this article the author talks about sick people, who don't have anything to look forward in life except pain and suffering. So comparison of baby and dog doesn't fit here.

      June 13, 2011 at 01:37 | Report abuse |
  3. suez

    Is it any wonder we can't get a tunnel through or get an unwanted stadium built?? We all have our opinions. I do think it is difficult for anyone to have an opinion about this without having experienced the pain.

    June 11, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zDavid

      No, it's not difficult at all. Opinions about it just happens to be based on whether you are a selfish b4$tard who doesn't respect a loved one's wishes, or a nice person who does. It is completely and utterly selfish to prolong a dying person's life or to tell someone who wants to die that they cannot. It's tantamount to torture and it's no wonder that in this country we treat those in pain and/or those who are dying with the least respect.

      I know who I am.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
  4. Scott

    I watched my dad suffer for over a year in a Hospital with a tube in his stomach. He had had multiple strokes, was incapable of swallowing and incapable of doing anything for himself. The last time I saw him, all he wanted was to go home and die. My Mom refused, as she could not let him go. If you haven't experienced it, you have no clue how bad it can get.

    At some point, it's no longer life, it's a nightmare that only the person experiencing can see. Which is why it should be the PERSON'S CHOICE.

    June 11, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Pumbaa

      I think religion has a lot to do with suffering. Some Christians say it was necessary for Jesus to suffer and die on a cross for our sins?? I have heard that suffering was good and that it prepared your soul for Heaven. People who had pain with terminal illness used to pass out in pain. Then their family would shake and wake them up so they could suffer some more and have more time to pray before their last breath. There is nothing good about suffering except it sure feels good when it finally ends.

      If a person truly believes Heaven is a better place than our present existence then it is illogical to want the suffering person to have to remain on earth and to continue in pain.
      I

      June 11, 2011 at 13:06 | Report abuse |
    • SouthernCelt

      I watched my Father go out a similar way so I understand what you went through. Faith teaches us that Life is sacred from conception to natural death. People are forced to linger beyond natural death by the abuse of medicine. That only happens when there is a balance in their insurance account. As soon as they can't pay for it, the "plug" is pulled.

      June 11, 2011 at 16:52 | Report abuse |
    • LittleMo

      There is a difference between euthanasia as opposed to making someone "comfort measures only" with a "do not intubate/do not resuscitate" order and letting nature take its course.

      June 12, 2011 at 02:28 | Report abuse |
    • Al

      AGREED

      June 13, 2011 at 01:39 | Report abuse |
  5. Paul

    Re: Ryan
    It is easy to say that you would fight until the end with a severe illness now when you are healthy, but these people that are asking for death are literally fought out. The pain is too much to bear and they need another option. Every second of every day is agonizing for them and there is no enjoyment and no hope for recovery. I personally don't think I would choose that option, but I would not want to make decisions for others and would want the option if I were to be in that situation. I saw a person that had attempted suicide and was subsequently paralyzed everywhere except for the face. The medical team fought to save this person and it deeply bothered me. This person decided that their life while fully functional was not acceptable to live and now the medical team was saving this person and was promising them a life of dependence for even the most basic matters.
    With regards to euthanizing- the question can be turned back on you then: which would you rather sit and watch suffer your dog or a baby? If you picked baby you picked the wrong choice. To paraphrase your logic you would suggest we treat humans like trash when we offer the relief to their pain that cannot be obtained through medical technology.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Annie

    I wish there was such a way out for my mother who is in the final stage of Alzheimer's. There is absolutely no quality of life; in fact barely any life. She breathes and her heart beats and that's about it. It is such a cruel way to die, for her and the family.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Elwyn

    Sometimes a fate worse than death is life. People should be able to decide when, how, and where they want to die. A loving God wants us to be able to make this decision. People shouldn't be allowed to impose different religious interpretations on other people. If you don't want to choose death, don't.

    June 11, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JehseaLynn

    I suffer terribly from seizures, traumatic brain injury (TBI – just like returning Iraq vets, but I got mine from a 33-ton lumber truck that rear-ended me), spinal cord injuries from a fused neck and severely damaged lower back, detached retina, and horrific chronic pain, among other things. This has gone on 11 years. Of course I have contemplated suicide MANY, MANY times. I finally asked my Pastor if I would go to hell if I killed myself, which is the doctrine in our church. And tears of relief flowed when he said, "No, I don't think so. Not when you have suffered as you have suffered." I am all in FAVOR of medically-assisted, compassionate death at the discretion of the dying. Why can we not see our way clear to treat ourselves as humanely as we treat a beloved family member with two more legs than we? So many other industrialized, First World nations havr compassionate end-of-life care. We should also.

    June 11, 2011 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Al

      you should move to OR or WA, where assisted suicide is legal.

      June 13, 2011 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
  9. Rob

    As a physician I agree with Egbert 100%.

    June 11, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • zDavid

      As a non-physician I agree with Egbert's position.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • zDavid

      That sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it? I mean, as a non-physician, does my opinion about something non-medical mean any less than yours? Could this mindset possibly be part of what's wrong with all of this? - That we believe one person's (namely, our own) opinion about life is more important than others? It's not reflective of anything regarding free will.

      I agree with your sentiment, DR Rob. But probably don't agree with whatever it took for you to feel like throwing your physician's weight around. Good day!

      June 12, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • Paincanhurtdeep

      zDavid, I don't think Rob meant to throw his physician weight around. I believe he was making the point that he agrees with many of us on this subject. In other words, just like Dr. Egbert, not all physicians oppose suicide assist. If he Rob wanted to show off he was a doctor then he would have called himself Dr. Rob instead of just Rob. I am happy Rob or Dr. Rob has a kind heart and agrees that we should let those of us go when it is the right time.

      June 13, 2011 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
  10. ABC123

    I have watched patients die after a very long, painful illness. Imagine being told you have Alzheimers or ALS?
    I think most people would want to be allowed to die, if they are being honest.
    However, over time, as our society ages and medical care costs increase, the calls for euthanasia as a cost control mechanism may well increase. The costs, fiscal and emotional, of caring for an invalid are VERY high. Medical care will be rationed also. It is a VERY slippery slope...which is why Medicine has not been involved in euthanasia in most countries. Shoud a child, born with tremendous mental and physicial disabilites, who will require COMPLETE care for the rest of his life be euthanized?
    If we can be sure it is the patients FREE choice, AND they are rational, euthanasia seems appropriate. The trouble comes with expensive to maintain and unable to vote cases...

    June 11, 2011 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. endrunaroundpolitics

    I agreed with this doctor right up until the time he qualified his description of people wanting to die using the word "competent." It is other people who decide whether the patient is competent, and that is a LEGAL designation. Usually Psychiatrists are involved in changing the person's legal status from "competent" to "incomepetent"–or at least some legal process involving so called expert opinion–which may or may not be accurate. Why not support the right to end one's life whether competent or not? That would solve the issue in practice....but you see, the entire matter is being approached incrementally because society and most notably the Catholic church with its Terry Schiavo affair–is going to be moralists for everyone else. What we need less of is that and what we need MORE of is true compassion.

    June 11, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SouthernCelt

      As I recall, the Catholic Church was opposed to starving the poor woman to death, which is what happened. What is wrong with feeding people that can't feed themselves?

      June 11, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      "People" with no higher brain function are no longer people. They are living bodies. The individual is gone. They are not capable of exercising choice. Sustaining the "lives" of the brain-dead is not just horrifically expensive, it's pointless. It is an amoral self-absorption of the living, and has nothing to do with the departed mind and spirit of the lost.

      June 12, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse |
  12. Angela Birch

    Ryan; you believe you would fight beyond where there is no hope, most of those who choose suicide have fought beyond that. It is easy when healthy and no in pain to envision a heroic fight but when one is in unremitting agony, ill and weak it is a different story. I had a neighbor, strong stubborn guy hunted, made his own beautiful furniture walked 10 miles a day in his 70s,positive, hardworking. He got prostate cancer, it wasn't discovered till it was too late. He spent the last 2 weeks of his life in agony, the doctor gace him every pain medication he could and it didn't touch the pain, he tried o crawl to his guns to kill himself but was too weak, everyone was afraid to help him kill himself. Finally he found a sharp bit of metal on his bed and in hte middle of the night cut his wrists with it. We has a vote here in Washington and everyone who knew him voted for doctor assisted suicide if the patient wishes. There is no dignity for a person writhing and screaming for the relief of their pain, there is no dignity in a man begging his wife and children to kill him. He regained some of his dignity in being able to make the and free himself from unremitting agony. I don't know if I would make the choice to ask my doctor but after seeing what a person can be reduced to with pain, I am not sure I wouldn't either.

    June 11, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rojlend

    As a woman I remain astonished at our legal system which permits me to abort as many "fetuses" as I can possibly conceive (year after year after year) because I have the "say-so about my own my body". However, after all those years of "legally" aborted fetuses (as many as I choose), I cannot use the same legal "say-so over my body" and take my own life.

    June 11, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • honesttogod

      I always said that if you allow abortion on tap, the next stage will be the sick , and after that will come the elderly. Mind you – killing off the sick and elderly has been going on for years. Do people realise how many little cards sit on the ends of patients beds saying NR [Do not resusitate]. Hitler was way before his time!

      June 11, 2011 at 15:18 | Report abuse |
    • Norma

      The "DNR" (not DR) cards at a patient's bed are there because the PATIENT (and their families) have signed a Living Will or End of Life orders. It is their PERSONAL WISHES that they not be resusitated. My own parents and I signed such papers and were/are on file with our doctors.

      June 11, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse |
    • SouthernCelt

      Norma,
      Unfortunately DNR cards and Living Wills are not legally enforceable and totally up to the Dr. or Hospital to respect. If there is insurance money on the table bet on them delaying it.

      June 11, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse |
    • Joanne

      I found the full report on Stop TB to be very ivorfmatine, some of the graphs were a little hard to follow, but I was able to understand it all. In the remaining questions about Stop TB, individual donations must be made through the united nations foundation, is there a way to get this publicized ? or can there be other ways for individual donation?

      August 2, 2012 at 03:36 | Report abuse |
  14. honesttogod

    According to this doctor I should have been put out of my misery when I was a child. I had an attack of e-coli. Our ex-doctor gave me 5- 10 hours to live until I died "naturally from de-hydration" [have you any idea what an excrutiating death that is? - read it up]. That cretin knew best – he was a doctor after all. He did nothing. Just told my mum to let me go "with dignity". My grandma said "Dignity my ####". She gave me whisky, warm water and sugar for 3 days and nights. And here I am folks! Married with 2 children. I'm glad Mum and Grandma didn't say "Let her go WE can't stand to see her suffer any longer. They went the extra mile. God is so good if you trust in Him.

    June 11, 2011 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Seriously? This article isn't about children with food poisoning, who probably have MANY more decades to live. The right-to-die argument is talking about people with excruciating, horrific, TERMINAL diseases. We're talking about that man who IS going to die of cancer in the next few weeks, no matter what is done. He has the choice of letting his suffering get progressively worse and worse and worse, only to die in agony after his remaining weeks have run out, or saying goodbye to his family on his own terms and then terminating his life in a painless, medically-assisted manner.

      Do you see the difference here?

      Probably not.

      June 11, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      Why should we believe that you didn't just make up this anecdote? If you "had an attack of e. coli" that was so serious that you might have died you'd have been in a hospital in a comatose state. How would your grandmother have been able to administer anything to you by mouth? What hospital would have allowed that? Your story sounds quite implausible to the point of being ridiculous.

      June 12, 2011 at 13:00 | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      I agree with Leo and Paul. This sounds made up. If it isn’t, I don’t know that death from dehydration is particularly painful, certainly far less so than many. Unless you were in a 3rd world country no doctor would send a child home to die. This is an acute illness, nothing to do with the topic. It is technically wrong. It is probably fiction.

      June 12, 2011 at 13:55 | Report abuse |
    • TF

      Ever see someone in the end stages of ovarian or pancreatic cancer? It's not e coli, okay?

      June 12, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse |
  15. Mary

    It's sad that people don't understand suffering anymore. When are people going to realize that everyone on earth suffers. The point of life is more than the avoidance of pain and the acquisition of pleasure. It is difficult to watch our loved ones suffer, but we have to realize that suffering does have a purpose. We should do everything we can to alleviate that suffering, save for ending their life.

    the value of human life is rapidly decreasing in our world. People in great poverty and illness are still capable of finding joy in their life. And simply because we wouldn't want to be in their place, we have decided that their lives are not worth living.

    Our efforts would be better directed at finding joy in life rather than seeking to end it. We weren't put on this earth to escape life.

    June 11, 2011 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leo

      Only sick, sad, evil people WANT others to suffer needlessly. Are you Catholic? If so, that would explain it.

      June 11, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • JeramieH

      Does saying that make you feel heroic, Mary? Come back when you're dying of cancer and let me know how you feel then.

      June 11, 2011 at 20:36 | Report abuse |
    • Movieman Dave

      Mary,

      Yes, everyone suffers in life. Death is a part of life. None of us have walked on water so we all have an expiration date.

      Let's say I have Stage 4 cancer. There's nothing the doctors can do for me. Does it really matter whether or not I just let nature take it's course and expire in agony (and I've watched my grandmother and father die of cancer, and their last days were hell on earth) or choose to end my life on my terms at a time and place of my choosing? I know if I'm ever put in that situation, I would want to get my family together, have a celebration of my life, and end it while I still have my senses about me. What is wrong with that? It would be my decision, and my right. I'm sure as hell not going to give my life savings to doctors stringing me out on medication. If that is how you wish to spend your final days, that would be your right, and your decision.

      Personally, I'm hoping to get shot by a jealous husband when I'm 90 or so, but I guess we'll have to just see how it all plays out!! :-)

      June 11, 2011 at 20:43 | Report abuse |
    • rossita

      Mary, you say all those things because you have never seen a person suffer in pain. My mother had Alzheimer's for 11 years until she died 2 months ago. The first years I did everything for her until I HAD TO put her in a nursing home. She lived there for 41/2 years. I went in the mornings and afternoons+Saturdays+Sundays... I felt her suffering and I suffered like I have never done in my life. My mother was a vibrant, educated wonderful person who little by little became what I called "just a breathing body" consumed by disease and pain. I want to FORGET all those years and every time I think about her I need to make an effort to remember my mother the way she was before this horrendous disease and not the way she was in the end. If she would have imagined the kind of life ahead of her she would have done something about it.

      Annie, I am with you!!!

      June 12, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
    • Rigel54

      Mary, you are either a horrible person, or follow a horrible belief system (I suspect the latter). Finding virtue in pointless suffering only made sense when it had a point. 1000 years ago survival of the species and the civilization was the point. Suffering was general, and fighting on (of all, not the hopelessly ill) important. The hopelessly ill died quickly. You are wrong about the value of human life. It is valued much more highly than long ago. It is misery that we no longer value as much as we used to.

      June 12, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Probably a Fundamentalist Christian. They pedal that garbage about the value of suffering even when you are 90 and would not recover from the damage done by whatever is wrong. They will fight to destroy a family by making them continue to pay for keeping an empty body alive. They only care about getting into Heaven themselves. They have no compassion for anyone but themselves. They would force you to go through the worst of indignities so they get brownie points in heaven for forcing their values on you. They would likely force their families into debt and loss in order to keep them alive on machines waiting for the "growth" from the pain to occur. Their values are so against the health of the nation that they should not be allowed to breed and should have their children removed from them to stop the perpetuation of these selfish and cruel congregations.

      June 12, 2011 at 15:51 | Report abuse |
    • TF

      Have you ever had terminal cancer, Mary? Ever watch a loved one vomiting their own feces because of end-stage bowel cancer? Ever watched a dear friend drowning in the mucus filling his lungs because of an inoperable lung tumor?

      Probably not. I doubt you would be so in love with the idea of suffering being good if you had.

      June 12, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse |
    • steph

      Mary – you recall the part where Jesus asked His Father to take away his suffering, right? That he wished it would not have to happen as it was going to happen to him, right?

      Make a distinction in 'gaining virtue through suffering' and 'suffering needlessly'.

      Even Christ wasn't looking to suffer MORE before the cross.

      June 13, 2011 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
  16. Maria

    we have freedom to choose where to live, what kind of job to do, whom we want to marry, when to have a baby, how many children we want to have, which house we want to buy, but why not when to die. We can make a decision for our beloved dog but not our loved ones?

    June 11, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Annie

    OMG Mary. Come sit by my mother's bed in the nursing home (final stage AZ) and help me find the "joy in life".

    June 11, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rossita

      I feel your pain. I have been there helpless unable to stop her suffering and feeling lonely next to somebody you love who is incapable of expressing herserf. And little by little seing family members refusing to go to the nursing home because "they don't want to see her like this"... but you go because you love her and you can abandon her when she needs you more than ever.

      June 12, 2011 at 12:55 | Report abuse |
    • rossita

      can't abandone her...

      June 12, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
  18. May Voirey

    Dr. Egbert, you are my hero. Those who would arrogantly INSIST that the suffering just keep on suffering truly have no concept of compassion. Self-righteousness maybe, but definitely not compassion. Thank you for understanding and for doing the work you do.

    June 11, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Eugene Frank MD

    Dr. Egbert's intellectual, and simplistic arguments in favor of assisted suicide is exploitive of the emotional pain expressed in many of these plaintive posts. The issue is complex, personal, and once this act is taken, irrevocable. This is a public health and legal issue: Dr. Egbert's martyr-like stance is unhelpful as it is ignorant of the societal problems involved. If Dr. Egbert wants to make a statement of his helplessness in the face of legal hurdles, his efforts should go into changing the laws, not in defying them. I resent, as a psychiatrist, fellow physician, and as a care-giver, that Dr. Egbert's own personal needs are posited as a laudable do-gooder's plaintive plea. Zugzwang, Dr. Egbert: your exploitive, self-piying stance is abhorrent: don't just stand there, do something.

    June 11, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Angela Birch

      Actually a lot of us have. We voted for the right of every citizen to make that decision for themselves. In Washingtn state we are adults and capable of making that decision. Some people would not do it and some would, but we have the right to make that choice. ORegon has had the same choice much longer. There have been only a few people who made that choice and no evidence of anyone abusing it. The reast of the nation still seems to think that the government has the right to order you to live as long as possible.

      June 11, 2011 at 22:00 | Report abuse |
    • CalgarySandy

      Other nations that do allow assisted suicide are not crumbling into dust. It should not be about religion forced on everyone. It should not be political at all. It should be between the patient, the family and the doctors. Only in the US would some nim rod move away from that and make it a big public health issue.

      As you are a psychiatrist I have no use for your opinion. You did a medical degree and then chose not to be a medical doctor. You went on to years of working in hospitals under a practicing Pshrink with the kind of people who are not surviving mental illness, the ones who end up being committed. You learned about some medications used but not all. You may or may not be one of those in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies. You only have to study one form of therapy. Then they turn you loose on people who you sneer at for being less than you. You are in one of the least objective professions. You try to shove everyone into your idea of normalcy and will make diagnosis without adequate time to really know what you are talking about.

      Yes, I have had more experience with your pseudo-science profession than has been good for my health. Many of them were at the top of their professions where I live. I am sure all doctors find it difficult to cope with patients who do not respond to therapy. Most of them would not, however, blame the patient. Pshrinks will. I look forward to the day the Neurologists working with psychologists and family doctors kick the whole profession of psychiatry into the toilet where it belongs. You should have empathy given your profession. You don't.

      June 12, 2011 at 16:05 | Report abuse |
  20. Conor Mccartney

    People are autonomous
    http://socialmoderatefiscalconservative.blogspot.com/
    They should be able to control their own bodies.

    June 11, 2011 at 21:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Angela Birch

    Sorry but you make little sense and you have a stuck cap key.

    June 11, 2011 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Apeasant

    Some people need to hold on, others need to let go. There's no one size fits all solution, and bleating about that somehow you've found the correct answer is presumptuous and silly.

    However, I do know that suffering and death comes whether we like it or not. That is not a choice. What is a choice is how to deal with it, and that choice is not one that should be made by anyone other than the one who is suffering.

    June 11, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • LivinginVA

      Very well said.

      June 13, 2011 at 07:44 | Report abuse |
  23. js513

    I have stage 2 COPD – which is moderate. However should this progress and should I die from it rather than other causes, I will basically endure a very long suffocation.

    I am also nearly 70 years old, have raised my children, have many, many grandchildren and led a full and interesting life for which I am thankful.

    My brain still works well and I stay very active, though I can no longer climb hills, etc. But, if there comes a time I can no longer function in any viable way, where every breath is a struggle, then I would be grateful to for a peaceful, loving way to pass over and feel my Creator will understand and love me just the same. Now, if one thinks their Creator would feel differently and wouldn't take such measures, that's fine – I just ask they don't impose their will on me.

    Personally, I don't know why we are so hell bent on prolonging life when people are so ill that it has become pure agony for them and their quality of life has so deteriorated that they want to let go. How selfish can we be?

    June 11, 2011 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Stage4PCa

    It's amazing to me to see the posts that basically assert that horrible suffering and pain will build character and bring one "closer to god", or that everyone should expect to suffer and stop whining about it and just suffer for years and die in agony. Let me tell you what my view is. I have been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic prostate cancer, and am currently being treated for it with hormone therapy. I have been living with prostate cancer for almost ten years, having had surgery, then radiation, and now a lot of medications. My quality of life has been crappy for most of that time in a lot of ways, especially lately, with the hormone therapy side effects, and all the pills I have to take, as well as frequent CT scans, MRI's and referrals to one specialist after another, usually due to medication side effects. However, I can still find more enjoyment in life and savor every moment of it, so I will continue to fight this disease by all available means, including "clinical trials", should it come to that. At some point, it may well be obvious to me and the doctors that the battle is lost.

    However, when I get to the point where all the available treatments have failed, and the cancer begins to eat my body from the inside out, and none of the pain medications are effective anymore, and I cannot even get out of bed to go to the bathroom, let me tell you, I will then want out with a shred of dignity at that point. There will be utterly no point to my continuing living, while screaming in agony and begging to be killed. There will be no feeding tubes, and no ventilators, and no more medical treatment other than palliative. I do not want some doctrinaire religious nitwit or psychopath standing between me and a peaceful end of life, and if they do, and I have the means, I will make them suffer as much as I have, and then let them see how they feel about this subject. Until you've been in these shoes, you should really shut your irrelevant mouth, and let others have some freedom of choice. The hypocrisy of these religious wingnuts is simply stunning, and they have no sense of shame or embarrassment about it, although I am sure they are all aware of and comfortable with their hypocrisy. I was raised a Roman Catholic, so I know full well of what I speak.

    I watched both of my wife's parents and my own mother die of Alzheimer's, and in some cases it took many, many years. Years of being incognizant, incontinent, unable to speak or understand, and in pain they couldn't even express to anyone, though it was obvious to all. Unless you have seen this repeatedly, and are now having to deal with similar possibilities for yourself, you have nothing to say about it. Nothing! Not one single word of any value whatsoever! So take your religious idiocy elsewhere, and find kindred spirits you can validate your ludicrous beliefs with, and leave the rest of the planet alone. You are all hypocrites, each and every one, and nothing will change that. The fact that you all know it, and yet persist in your stupid efforts to enforce your point of view on the world, makes you some of the most repugnant creatures alive, and I doubt your "god" will have any mercy on you for your behaviour.

    June 12, 2011 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rossita

      Well said!!!!

      June 12, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
    • Maria

      Good luck with your fight and I hope you kick cancer's behind. I just wanted to tell you and everyone else living with a chronic/long term life threatening illness to consider looking into palliative treatment early, since resent studies suggest that using palliative measures as well as an illness fighting method might not only improve quality of life, it might lengthen it as well. Best of luck to you.

      June 12, 2011 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
    • Movieman Dave

      Good for you! Fight the good fight, but when there's no more fight left in you, in my mind you have earned the right to call it on your terms.

      I am a Christian, but I believe in a God of mercy and compassion. I don't believe that I have to suffer the tortures of the damned to be closer to Him. If I'm wrong, then I will have to deal with my actions when the time comes I suppose. Death is a part of life. I'm not in any hurry to get there, but there is no reason to be afraid of something that is going to happen no matter what I do.

      The bottom line is that people should have the right to die in any manner that they deem dignified. If you wish to exhaust any and all means to keep on keepin' on, then that is your right. By the same token, a person should have the right to choose if that is what they desire.

      June 13, 2011 at 00:08 | Report abuse |
    • Shaun

      Excellent post Sir. I do hope you beat cancer.

      The Lord may move in all mysterious ways possible but honestly I don't care. I have the right to live and i should have the right to end it with some dignity if and when I want to. What good is a God if he only wants us to continue existing and suffer?

      November 6, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • Juan

      I remember gettnig 5 cents for a soft drink bottle at my local show and buying a purple-dyed day-old-chicken with my loot. We called him Flavius Maximus, but that's another story.The whole container deposit thing just makes so much sense, and there's a lot more than cans and bottles to collect once we get it happening. Think of all the e-waste from batteries and mobile phones to computers and TVs, and lots more.Bring it on!

      August 1, 2012 at 18:25 | Report abuse |
  25. Bonnie

    I am a 66 year old female that is still active. I am retired and an asset to my community. When I cease to be active, or due to age and disease become a burden, I will no longer have any quality of life. At that time rather than having my loved ones park me in a nursing home, where i may linger in a state of dispair, lonliness and pain for years, I would rather celebrate my life and go on to the next great adventure. I am a christian and therefore will struggle with the concept of taking ones own life but there is a lot to be said for giving the gift of my death to my loved ones and to society. An old person that has passed the point of giving anything to anyone and just existing in pain needs a dignified way to finish their race here on this earth. Just my thoughts......

    June 12, 2011 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shanna

      Bonnie, well said. I think that you are an exception to the 'average' Christian. It appears to me that most Christians SAY they believe in an afterlife, but are terrified of going there – so much so, that they can't let anyone go there of their own accord. I say, if I have a right to 'the pursuit of happiness' and my own destiny, then I have a right to release myself from a body that no longer serves me and go on to the 'next great adventure' as you so aptly put it. More often than not, death is NOT the enemy, it is a friend; many, many worse things than death. I think that assisted suicide is a term that is misleading. I think it might help the general perspective if it were labeled 'assisted release'.

      The Church (when it was church and state combined) had such total control, was so corrupt and made life so miserable for the populace, that their only way out of their tortuous lives would have been suicide. So, the CHURCH, not Jesus, had to find a way to keep their populations in line (loss of people, loss of revenue) and decided to make suicide not only a sin, but an unforgivable sin. Just another religious fear/control mechanism, but a beauty, because it was so scary – and lasting. I think Christians forget that we are NOT a body that happens to have a soul, but rather a soul that happens to inhabit a body. And, if one doesn't believe in a soul, then, what the hey? No problem either.

      Come to think of it, Jesus committed suicide himself. He knew what was going to happen and acquiesced. Sounds like suicide to me. But we don't condemn that. If someone throws their body over a bomb to protect others, that's suicide, But we don't condemn that. We require suicide when we send people to war knowing the likelihood of them getting killed (suicide by decree?). But we don't condemn that. If we commit suicide ourselves for someone else, I guess that's okay. But if we wish to release ourselves from our own pain, for our own sake, it becomes everyone else's business? God help us evolve to more ethical and compassionate thinking.

      June 12, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • Shaun

      Very well put Bonnie. I would also like to add that this option should not be available only to 60+, rather to 35+ people as well.

      November 6, 2011 at 22:54 | Report abuse |
    • Tyler

      That was AWESOME! I'm so bummed we meissd that event. After watching that video I want cake and frosting and art and I don't remember what else I was subliminally subjected to, but I'm sure it'll hit me throughout the day/night. I remember you telling us about this video. Yay!

      August 1, 2012 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  26. Brian

    I work in the animal welfare field and I have heard on many occassions from co-workers, vets, etc (myself included), that when they retire they are going to take some of the "blue juice" with them. That way, when some doctor keeps them alive soiling themselves in front of family members and strangers, drooling all over themselves and can't talk because of the tube in their throat, and stuck with a look of permanent agony plastered to their face, they can afford themselves the same luxury that we give to a dying animal in pain. A dignified and quick end.

    It's the right thing to do...

    June 12, 2011 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Eileen Lepera

    It's sad that the only reason for prolonged suffering at end of life is the greed of the medical establishment. I don't know how most doctors live with themselves. People have to wake up and take back control of their own life – this should not be dictated from the hospital – it is a personal decision – get the comfort care only paperwork which rules out life support and DNR too. This is the only way we can protect ourselves from the greed of the doctors.

    June 12, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rinsewind

      I don't know of a single doctor who enjoys seeing people suffer. I also don't know of a single one who tries to keep people alive so they can make more money. I do know docs who feel it is imperative, and part of their oath as doctors, to exhaust every means available to keep a patient alive. Other doctors are more amenable to pallative care and end of life decisions which spare medical treatment. It is often a matter of personal conviction. I also know that fear of lawsuits is a consideration for some–what if they don't exhaust all means available, thinking it's what the patient or the patient's family wants, and then gets sued. Not a great reason, in my opinion, but understandable. Not all doctors act the same or have the same convictions, but as I say, I have never met one who prolongs life simply to make a buck. And no, I am not a doctor, nor am I in the medical field. But I know quite a few as friends.

      June 12, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
  28. Robert marra

    I too want the freedom to choose at the end of my life. Those who are currently in charge of the Republican Party will deny all of us our right to say enough is enough. I hope my more moderate Republican friends will retake control of their party and bring sanity into the discussion.

    June 12, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. jar

    Have never responded to any article. But have been a strong advocate for a peaceful and dignified choice to end life. I totally would celebrate the day this is legalised.

    June 12, 2011 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Beer3

    I agree wit doc egberts position people should have da right to get assistance for suicide, get help for misery and pain or have someone put a hit out on them. He needs 2 give assistance for suicide there's also other people suffering from emotional pain.

    June 12, 2011 at 15:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shaun

      Emotional pain, I feel, can be worse that physical pain sometimes. I am a healthy individual physically but I have lost the willingness to live. I would love to end it all soon. It is good for the world too as I won't be consuming the resources for another 50 years or so. Why would anyone take away my right to end it all. I am not causing any harm to anyone, only good.

      November 6, 2011 at 22:50 | Report abuse |
  31. CalgarySandy

    I won't even bother to try to sort out this mess. All caps is like yelling. It is also difficult to read and most will not read it. I do notice though that your footnotes, referring to your sources a blogs. You are quoting people who have opinions on other news; which could be more blogs of opinions...ad nauseum. Only the primary source is legitimate as a source unless you are quoting well known and trusted people who did read the original source.

    June 12, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. David

    If I decided to take someone else's life, that is murder. But why is murder wrong? Because one is imposing their will on the life of another against their wishes. And yet, those who refuse to allow others to decide for themselves when they should die are doing the same thing – imposing their will on the life of another against their wishes. For those who disagree, I challenge you to find the flaw in the argument rather than just provide an emotional rant.

    June 12, 2011 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Paul

    I totally disagree with the "right to end one's life" proponents. If I were in a terminal illness situation, I would just pray to Jesus for support. I would not require any morphine. Jesus is the best pain-killer. Amen.

    June 12, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TF

      You can do whatever you want Paul, and use Jesus as a pain killer if that's your choice. But you have absolutely no right to dictate how any other person chooses to deal with their own pain.

      June 12, 2011 at 23:24 | Report abuse |
  34. Nate

    Sorry Paul, but America is a country where your religious beliefs can not dictate another person's life. Don't want an assisted suicide? Don't get one, that's your choice. But you don't have the right to tell me I can't just because it's against your beliefs.

    June 12, 2011 at 19:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • JD

      Ok, my beliefs tell me not to subsidize things you do that run contrary to my beliefs. There goes your universal health care. Still want to play this game?

      June 13, 2011 at 02:34 | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      I understand and accept that as a citizen, my taxes will be used for things I both support and oppose. My own opinion is that we shouldn't give oil companies huge subsidies, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to go to jail. That is an option – you can refuse to pay your taxes if you feel that strongly about it. You'll go to jail, but, if you are willing to accept the consequences of your actions, then so be it.

      The question is: Why, when the consequence of my action harms no one but myself (as with assisted suicide) – you think you have a right to refuse to allow it based on your moral beliefs?

      June 13, 2011 at 07:54 | Report abuse |
  35. john P.

    Imagine having a brain freeze that never stops. Even MORPHINE gets to a point it does not work.
    WHAT IS ONE TO DO AT THAT POINT??? hAVE TRIED AND FAILED SEVERAL TIMES, NEXTTIME WILL BE THE CHARM. I PRAY FOR THOSE IN PAIN AND HOPETHEY WILL FIND AN ANSWER SOON.

    June 12, 2011 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Tracy

    I want to say THANK YOU to this brave doctor and others like him who share the belief that every person has the right to live and die as they choose. I am a relatively young and healthy woman today who enjoys my life, but I can imagine a time when that would no longer be true, when the pain and the prognosis were so dire that I would no longer want to suffer. What is the point of dying a "natural" death when there are alternatives? This life is yours and yours alone - you should have the power over how to live it and how to end it. The moral or religious beliefs of others do not concern me now, so why should they dictate my rights at the end? I only hope that if I am ever terminally ill and in distress that there would be someone like Dr. Egbert who would be there to help me. I feel terrible for those who suffer needlessly, only to satisfy the beliefs of others.

    June 12, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Kenneth Bradshaw

    No, I don't believe in assisted suicides. And I don't believe in abortions. Yes, I do believe in the death penalty.

    June 12, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. sunshine

    enough pouting & judging. apparently those religious folk who enjoy judging others , look forward 2 there judgement day infront of god. didnt god say not 2 judge? so when u end up in hell with every1 else u have judged & been unkind 2, dont look so suprised. i been a nurse over a decade. my father a pastor & we were missionaries when i was a child. I watch people every day in agony, & wat do we do? we do everything 2 keep these poor folk alive. folk who probably would have passed months b4. but we dont care, we r so called " playing god either way u look @ it".So leave that poor man alone, he is obviously more intelligent than those of u who only know how 2 judge. some good advice would b 2 keep ur convictions 2 ur selves & if something bothers u go 2 god & pray. in the end its none of ur buisness. u have obviously never been down that horrible road in life & its something people deciding have personally prayed about. god is love & kindness, not judgmental & human like ur self. U have no idea how god feels

    June 12, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. jd wolff

    Evidently i was wrong.youthinasia is not about young asians but peoples right to die.

    June 12, 2011 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. 20 Year Veggie

    This is a moot point. Government wants to control our uteruses (uterii???), what we eat, what we see on the Internet, how we medicate our illnesses but this? This they can't really control unless they put every single citizen under a suicide watch. And, since we're too busy spending our money on building an empire, that won't happen.

    June 13, 2011 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Loriel

    The problem is that animals do not have a choice. They are destroyed against their will because it is easier for us. That is a valid fear of doctor assisted suicide. Even though I completely 100% sympathize with someone who is suffering horribly wanting to take their life with a doctor's help; it opens a door that cannot be closed. It is a Pandora's box and will be the beginning of doctors and family members deciding when it is someone's time to go. It may not happen immediatly but it will. Is it worth the price? Should people be able to take their own lives when they feel it is their time? That is a different situation. If a person has an illness that cannot improve and suffering then they should be able to make that choice in a manner that will not cause them additional pain. A doctor performing the task is a different story and I am sorry but I do not agree. There is a oath that needs to hold them above the taking of life; their task is to preserve life; not dignity, not quality...life itself.

    June 13, 2011 at 07:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. sandia

    On Life, Death and Suicide – who has the authority to judge if the average human does not even know what life is and when death occurs. On the entire planet there might be 5-10 people who know what makes us tick...Mind you – I am not talking THEORY.. I am talking knowledge by direct experience of 'life beyond'..So.. whatever is classified as 'life' cannot be killed because it is infinite...so all your politicians, opinions, laws... have no meaning in the scheme of something beyond your comprehension. Noone can be killed, EVER!

    June 14, 2011 at 08:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Dan

    We like to think we can pretty up death in a package and put a bow on it. We can't. Death was not meant to be pretty or serine. God in a mysterious way uses suffering. God used the suffering and death of Jesus His Son to bring forgivness of sin and healing to a fallen and broken world. God uses the all the pain we suffer in this life for something. It is a mystery known only to God. Death came into the world from Adam & Eve when they first disobeyed God.

    June 23, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Suhana

      Lol- as if we can expect anyinthg different from him or his Zuma acolyte cronies. Now why doesn't Zuma make the hugely competent and morally beyond reproach Y Carriem the minister after all he did a sterling job killing the Scorpions and is clearly a loyal and obedient cadre despite his honesty.

      September 11, 2012 at 09:51 | Report abuse |
  44. Shaun

    Excellent article. The doctor is 100% correct. It is one's right to end his own life. Some of us have lost the will to live and no therapy or medication could help us. What are we to do? Continue to exist (I won't say "live") and eat up resources that other people who want to live can use? That simply doesn't make sense. The world population has crossed 7 billion now and death rates have slowed down. Soon there will be a clamor for essential resources (other than facebook, of course). The way this world works, no one cares about others. Then, why all this fuss about letting people decide on their lives? I have the right to live, I should have the right to end it also.

    November 6, 2011 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ryan

    Its worth noting that (in this cnuotry at least) the vast majority of primary or sole child carers are female as are the vast majority of primary school teachers. The result is that a great deal about gender roles is defined by women. They might be able to throw light on it 8-).I agree with your last sentiment.

    September 11, 2012 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Sandra

    Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to asssit with SEO? I92m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I92m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share. Cheers!

    September 14, 2012 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. when to buy silver

    Hmm i hope you dont get offended with this question, but how much does a blog like yours earn?

    January 21, 2013 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.