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Andy Harris: Death with Dignity


Maryland Rep. Andy Harris, a physician, argues against D.C.'s new assisted suicide law based on his contention that "25% of people that request these have depression," and a cure for the terminally ill patient might be found. Where did this guy get his medical training?

Rep. Harris seems confused about "depression." He does not appear to know whether he refers to the mood state or a depressive disorder. Or maybe he just want to mislead his audience. He implies that we can treat this "depression," presumably with psychotherapy, antidepressants or shock therapy. While I agree that we should offer a terminally ill patient such treatment, provided they meet criteria for a depressive disorder, we should not force them to accept such treatment. More importantly, however, "depression," perhaps especially in the setting of a terminal illness, hardly renders the patient incompetent to decide whether they want to live or die. He fails to tell his audience how many of those 25% will respond to treatment or how many will still choose assisted suicide after successful treatment.

And what about the other 75%? Happy as clams to know they have a terminal illness and can look forward to a painful and very undignified death? Can the patient have mildly depressed mood? Can they have Major Depressive Disorder in full remission? Can they report occasional depressed mood.

He proceeds to another inexplicable tangent, apparently referring to his medical training: "The treatment for depression was not death." Really? And?

Harris tells his audience, "There's nothing dignified about suicide." Perhaps he means UNassisted suicide, where a terminally ill patient might resort to a messy violent method in secret, unable to involve loved ones for hear of the consequences.

Harris tells his audience, "They're going to come [to D.C.] to get a lethal injection." Does he really think the law allows for lethal injection, or does he hope to mislead his audience with this falsehood? I understand the law allows a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of an oral drug.

In reality Harris presumes to impose his judgement on that of other adults just as capable -- or maybe more so -- of making such a decision as is he. 

Competent adults have a right to decide when to die. Even if they "are depressed" and even in the event of the pie-in-the-sky of discovery of a cure.

Do you want Andy Harris to impose his judgement -- and beliefs -- on you?

Which is worse, Andy Harris as physician, or Andy Harris as lawmaker?