Physicians and other caregivers have the
obligation to maintain life and to relieve pain. These two duties, however,
may come into conflict when caring for someone who is dying.
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide
at times argue that their initiatives are the only way to protect the dying
from severe and intractable pain. It is true, too, that public opinion polls
reveal that many people who favor assisted suicide do so because they do not
want to endure a physically painful death. Quite understandably, people want
to make the last steps in life without pain.
It is important to point out that the effective
treatment of pain guarantees that no one will suffer a painful death. Health-care
providers must make every effort to ensure that the available medications to
eliminate or control pain are provided to a patient.
From a moral perspective, a physician may
responsibly administer medications to control or alleviate pain even when doing
so may hasten death. The physician’s intention is not to kill the patient but
to relieve pain effectively with the medicines available.
"True compassion leads to sharing
another's pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear."
--Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, 66*