Why ‘Progressives’ Embrace Assisted Suicide
– Ira Byock, MD
Ira Byock is a palliative care physician, lecturer, professor and author. An article in Politico.com shares Byock’s views on physician-assisted suicide, hospice, palliative care, hospitals, nursing homes and overall U.S. healthcare at the end of life.
Byock, who calls himself a “life-long progressive,” says, “My fellow progressives have embraced physician assisted suicide as their political response to needless suffering of seriously ill people. This isn’t liberalism; it’s nihilism.” Byock thinks the current movement toward acceptance of physician-assisted suicide is reminiscent of the 1970s movie “Soylent Green.” In that movie, says the article, “A society decides it doesn’t have the resources or will to take good care of aging and dying people, but offers them a compassionately quick, painless and aesthetically pleasing death.” Overall, Byock is dismayed “by the sorry state of dying in America.”
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Byock says, “Progressives championed hospice as a counter-cultural response to woefully bad care of terminally ill people.” And the results were good.
“Hospice and the specialties of palliative medicine and geriatrics demonstrated conclusively that much better care of frail elders and dying people is feasible and affordable.” Now, Byock notes, “One in five people languish in intensive care units during their final days.” And, while admitting that dying is not easy, Byock holds that death “doesn’t have to be this hard.”
After years of believing progress was being made in significantly improving end-of-life care, Byock now feels differently. “Unfortunately, countervailing forces, chief among them the profit motive, supervened. Instead of transforming mainstream health care to become genuinely person-centered, hospice, palliative medicine and geriatrics are largely being absorbed within corporatized medicine. For instance, fully two-thirds of America’s hospices now belong to for-profit companies, many traded on Wall Street.” Though more people access hospice, quality has suffered says the article.