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Cafe Society to discuss physician assisted suicide

By Staff | Mar 18, 2016

The next Cafe Society discussion on March 22 will focus on “New Perspectives on Physician-Assisted Suicide.” With this topic the program is taking on a complex mix of moral and ethical issues as well as looking at the social, and increasingly political environment in which discussion of the practice arises. Widely different approaches are taken within the U.S. and in other nations. But there is growing pressure to achieve some reasonable consensus about the practice.

These informal weekly discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center each Tuesday morning. Pre-registration is not required and there are no fees or charges.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin said, “I can’t think of a more appropriate topic for a discussion between the older generations of our community and college students. There are significant changes in recent years including dramatically increased longevity, more options for clinical intervention to prolong individual lives, enhanced ability to accurately diagnose patient’s mental as well as physical condition and increased array of costly hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other institutions to house and care for them.”

“Still,” Austin continued, “cases arise with increasing frequency, in which the patient no longer has an acceptable (to him or her) quality of life. There is no “light at the end of the tunnel.” There are finely drawn definitions of physician assistance to someone who is determined to take they own life. We have all heard of Dr. Kevorkian, the medical pathologist who intentionally raised visibility of the many individuals who wanted, but were unable to end their lives without help. One consequence of his efforts (regardless of how you judge them) is the greatly appreciated Hospice program where end of life scenarios are thoughtfully handled for families as well as the patients.

“There are many considerations, particularly the desire to allow someone to retain their personal dignity, to concern themselves with the impact of artificially prolonging their life on supporting loved ones. The physician themselves is put in a daunting personal situation often going up against the most basic tenets of his profession and his person beliefs.”

Austin went on to say, “The practice is gaining momentum, if not broad acceptance. It has been legalized in four states, permitted under court ruling in two more, and under active legal review in several others.”

Those with suggestions for future topics or who want more information should contact Austin at 304-876-0598 or michael.austin @frontiernet.net.