I am a general medical practitioner with 30 years experience. I work in Emergency Medicine and with nursing home residents and incarcerated persons. I have two problems with the conduct of Dr. Eric Kress, who assisted three patient suicides, as described in Alex Sakariassen’s article (see “Cowardice to courage,” April 11) and in an editorial written by Kress. First, since when did assisted suicide become legal? Second, I have concerns about his cases.
Kress claims that his patients were not depressed. In his editorial, however, his description of one of those patients suggested otherwise. Someone who is “often … found weeping and bemoaning the miserable fate that had befallen him” sounds depressed. Similarly, in the article by Mr. Sakariassen, Kress is described as using a “one question” screening tool for depression (“If the disease were gone tomorrow, would the request for life-ending medication still stand”). Asking a single question hardly seems sufficient for a life-or-death decision. Of course, I do not know the medical facts of these cases; I do know that there were other options than committing suicide, whether or not they were explored.
Doctors diagnoses can also be wrong. I have seen patients in my own practice live longer than expected. With this situation, patients participating in medical suicides can be throwing away their lives. I have also seen suicidal people get better, and rebuild lives that looked pretty grim. I do not agree that doctors or anyone else should be assisting other people to commit suicide.
Carley C. Robertson