Reflections on Physician-Assisted Suicide

Don't Follow Oregon's Lead:
Say No to Assisted Suicide

By Charles Bentz, MD
I am an internal medicine doctor, practicing in Oregon where assisted suicide is legal. I would like to share a story about one of my patients.

I was caring for a 76 year-old man who came in with a sore on his arm. The sore was ultimately diagnosed as a malignant melanoma, and I referred him to two cancer specialists for evaluation and therapy. I had known this patient and his wife for over a decade. He was an avid hiker, a popular hobby here in Oregon. As he went through his therapy, he became less able to do this activity, becoming depressed, which was documented in his chart.
During this time, my patient expressed a wish for doctor-assisted suicide to one of the cancer specialists. Rather than taking the time and effort to address the question of depression, or ask me to talk with him as his primary care physician and as someone who knew him, the specialist called me and asked me to be the "second opinion" for his suicide. She told me that barbiturate overdoses "work very well" for patients like this, and that she had done this many times before.
I told her that assisted-suicide was not appropriate for this patient and that I did NOT concur. I was very concerned about my patient's mental state, and I told her that addressing his underlying issues would be better than simply giving him a lethal prescription. Unfortunately, my concerns were ignored, and approximately two weeks later my patient was dead from an overdose prescribed by this doctor. His death certificate, filled out by this doctor, listed the cause of death as melanoma.


NCPD Board Chair Steve Mikochik in media against physician-assisted suicide.

Guest essayist in Naples News. See article titled "Only Dignified When Dead."


NCPD Board Chair Steve Mikochik was interviewed about the Bishops' statement on physician-assisted suicide on Tuesday, June 28 at 12 noon ET, part of the Catholic Matters DC live show that airs on Guadalupe Radio's WMET 1160 AM in the Washington DC area.

You can also listen online at; click on the link to the Washington DC media feed.


 See information on upcoming webinar on this issue. 


Prental Diagnosis Webinar:

  • Available for online replay until October 2011. (Click here.)
  • Resources from Webinar available. (Click here.)
  • DVD and Resources available for purchase (Click here.)




The NCBC Commends the USCCB on the Prophetic Document To Live Each Day with Dignity: A Statement on Physician-Assisted Suicide

"The legalization of assisted suicide demonstrates an inherent bias against persons who are not deemed healthy enough to live, including persons with disabilities. The Bishops’ document exposes the myth that erroneously presents assisted suicide as a compassionate choice and affirms the reality that true compassion alleviates suffering while maintaining solidarity with those who suffer, rather than abandoning the sufferer to suicidal impulses."

Statement of Karen Murray, NCPD Board Member, on the
Disability Implications of Physician-Assisted Suicide:

June 16, 2011

I’m grateful for my life that the U.S. Catholic bishops have taken action in such a visible and timely way to counter the advancing efforts of the proponents of physician-assisted suicide by issuing their policy statement, To Live Each Day with Dignity. The people on both sides of the “debate” seek to change hearts and minds, and what is at stake is more than just a battle of world views, it’s a matter of life and death. It appears that the advocates for assisted suicide are working hard to move the “goal posts” in this debate, suggesting that not only the terminally ill, but more and more openly, those with “significant” disabilities, are a burden of care to their loved ones and society. The bishops, thankfully, see these same experiences as a reason to provide care, support and services because of the inherent value and worth of every human person. Dignity isn’t something that belongs only to the “healthy” or “independent.”  This is good news not just for me, but for everyone.
Karen Murray is Diocesan Director of Disability Ministry for the Archdiocese of Boston, and uses a wheelchair and a service dog for mobility.


NCPD Board Member Dorothy Coughlin presents disability perspectives at physician assisted suicide press briefing.

Following the USCCB Bishops meeting where the statement regarding physician assisted suicide, To Live Each Day with Dignity. was approved 99-1, Portland resident Dorothy Coughlin presented a statement on the issue as it relates to people with disabilities. Click below for the full statement. 

"As a resident of Oregon, the first state to legalize assisted suicide, and a family member of a person with profound developmental disability, I am acutely aware of how the passage of physician-assisted suicide has had an adverse impact on the lives of people with disabilities."


June 16, 2011: NCPD Press Release on Physician Assisted Suicide

In support of the Bishop's document on physician assisted suicide, To Live Each Day with Dignity, NCPD has released a statement affirming compassionate care of persons facing serious illness or disability. For information about the upcoming webinar on the same topic, click here.

To read the full press release click below.



“Physician-assisted suicide is a clear threat to the lives of people with disabilities, as well as those with terminal illness. It is yet another example of society’s willingness to define a class of people as expendable, worthy of death by legally sanctioned means.”