Palliative care doctor discourages physician-assisted suicide

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., (WZZM) -- The issue of assisted suicide has sparked a lot of debate since 29-year-old Brittany Maynard ended her life in Oregon this past weekend. There are those who support her actions and those who disagree with it.

Those who say it's not an option include many of the doctors and nurses who dedicate their careers to helping people deal with terminal illness. They say it is possible for someone to be comfortable and die with dignity.

"One phrase that gets under my skin and breaks my heart is when someone says, 'Well, they told me there is nothing more they could do.' There's always more we can do," says Dr. Dan Maison, who specializes in palliative care.

"Palliative care is an expert care, focusing on pain and symptom management, for those with advanced medical illness," Dr. Maison said. He deals with both chronic and terminal illnesses at Spectrum Health.

He says he's familiar with the story of Brittany Maynard, the woman who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer back in January. Her doctors in California predicted she had only months to live.

"Actually, we take care of folks like her all the time, and we're able to keep almost all of them very comfortable," he said.

Maynard moved to Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal. She said she wanted "to die with dignity." Dr. Maison says that is possible with palliative care.

"Let's talk about honoring your dignity and comfort, and let's work together to make that happen," the doctor said.

Dr. Maison says he works closely with various hospice programs in West Michigan. He says people often can manage their pain and choose to die in the comfort of their own home.


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