By Dr. Charles F. Miller
Honolulu Civil Beat
I was interested to read Christopher Flanders’ letter on behalf of the Hawaii Medical Association in response to Civil Beat’s Oct. 5, 2012, article, “New Aid-in-Dying Service Gets Inquiries.” Flanders was responding to the piece’s closing question, “Is the aid-in-dying movement a humane approach to a difficult subject, or is it a violation of ethical standards?” I appreciate this opportunity to keep the issue of end-of-life choice in the forefront for healthy discussion.
I believe Flanders is correct when he states that, “The physician’s primary obligation is to advocate for the individual patient.” That is why I, and the majority of Hawaii physicians as well as state residents, feel that physicians should help their terminally ill patients achieve a peaceful death when patients request it and when options for recovery are nil.
The worrisome account of 95-year-old Karen Okada adds new emphasis to Hawaii’s long debated, but never acted on, issue of death with dignity.
Okada in 1998 had prepared directions that her life not be artificially prolonged and now is living a semi-comatose state at Queen’s Medical Center with a feeding tube.
Star-Advertiser reporter Dan Nakaso wrote that the Queen’s Ethics Committee found that “continuing to provide antibiotic treatment and nutritional supplementation is in violation of Ms. Okada’s instructions … and such treatment should be discontinued.”
Family members disagreed, the entire matter is in court, and the worry and fear continue.
There is a certain democracy in knowing that death comes to all and makes everyone equal, although those living with those at the end of life know that no matter how dedicated the care, there is always the feeling that something more should be done. If the loved one is not going to get better, then what to do? More