Honoring and empowering the patient

February 24, 2019

It was painful to read Dr. Anthony Vigil’s opinion on assisted suicide (“State should oppose assisted suicide,” My View, Feb. 3). He reminisces about his attending medical school decades ago when he was taught that healing physical pain was physicians’ only mission. What does he do when no healing of the physical body is possible? I fear he is one of still many physicians who will continue to urge any and all treatments available under the guise of this mandate, despite their obvious ineffectiveness. He speaks of “physicians who are committed to healing, not death,” apparently seeing this as an either/or position.

Clearly Dr. Vigil does not believe in treating the whole patient, which now is part of the curriculum in many medical schools. Can he hear the emotional, psychological and/or spiritual pain his patients may want and need to express? Does he know that patients who feel heard and understood by their physicians fare better than those who are silenced by deaf ears?

Dr. Vigil attempts to attack those who believe in assisted suicide by saying they are the same who “decry the rates of suicide in our state, including veteran-related suicide and teen suicide. …” Can he not see that for that population, if provided with adequate medical and psychological help, has a strong chance of choosing life? Those who are seeking assisted suicide have no such chance. That is exactly what would qualify them.

I hope Dr. Vigil’s patients will seek a physician who understands that with a prognosis of six months to live, they may wish to end their life — a life of little or no autonomy and/or tremendous emotional and/or spiritual distress. Dr. Vigil mistakenly believes it will be the physician making this decision if the law passes, once more refusing to honor and empower the patient.

Anne Webster lives in Santa Fe.