Law, Morals and Likely Abuse Trump “Compassion”

Michael Palcic
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Michael Palcic

By Michael Palcic – A recent Star-Advertiser column cheerfully advocates killing people as they  approach the end of life or suffer from severe disability. (“Compassion drives ‘aid in dying’ movement,” S/A, 6/2).

I believe these induced deaths are wrong.


I have just survived a major life-threatening illness (liver cancer) and four surgeries to address it (three chemo-embolizations followed by transplantation). Many people would consider my diagnosis to be a death sentence. Why bother with me?

I was met at every stage by medical professionals who wanted to help me to live, not to die. This is the attitude doctors have always had and it is right. They genuinely believe in life.

Advocates of doctor-assisted suicide use terms like “death with dignity.” Well, neither birth nor death are particularly dignified. If people are suicidal, should we be providing them with “life-ending medication?” Ask someone who is severely depressed if he wants to die. Do we allow him to make that “choice”?

When I hear proponents say “aid in dying” or “peaceful death,” it brings to mind “lethal injection” as in “execution,” which these same advocates would prohibit to convicted mass-murderers but find it okay for tutu. Is this really what medical treatment is coming to in Hawaii and in this country?

The columnist says this practice is being done now in Hawaii. Our attorney general says it is illegal. Who is performing these killings? Why are these cases not in court? The writer thinks an early death should be a right.

If death for terminally ill, but mentally competent people becomes a right, how can it be denied to the terminally ill, but mentally incompetent? So, we’ll kill them too, as non-discrimination prevails throughout the land. And, for the greedy beneficiaries of Uncle Charlie’s will, his qualification for “treatment” can certainly be arranged.

The potential for abuse is great. Could someone cajole and “help” Uncle Charlie believe that death is what he really wants?

I watched my mother suffer through cancer and was with her when she died. Nearing the end she suffered great pain and the medications sometimes made her delusional. But when she awoke, she was lucid and we spent precious moments together. I don’t believe she would have traded those moments for a cup of hemlock.

Advocates of death say that they’re helping people plan and achieve a good death. They say that it’s just a small number of people they’re killing. Well, all government-backed programs start small.

Inevitably, the criteria for an early death will expand. Ask people in the disability community about their level of trust for people making these decisions. Remember for example, how Sarah Palin was vilified for giving birth to a child that was known in advance to experience disability.

Human life, in our United States, has always been held to be sacred. And no one is to be arbitrarily deprived of life. We would be wise, in the public policy arena, to adhere strictly to this long-established precept. It is part of our foundation of a good and just society.


Michael Palcic is a computer expert who lives in Palolo, Oahu.





  1. Congratulations to Mr. Palcic for fending off a cancer that is often the final assault on a person's life.
    In his emotionally-charged piece, he identifies many known fears and issues about end of life care and decision-making, yet none is explored fully or cohesively enough to provide the reader with bona fide information that could be used for informed decision-making. Understandably so.
    To this day, it is the individual's right to decide whether they are ready to step away from this life or whether they want to exhaust every possible avenue in order to buy more time here, and any health care professional who is involved in that decision-making or implementation, is obliged to follow ethical and legal guidelines that prevent "executions" and "arbitrary deprivation of life." This has been going on since long before I was born, and no doubt since before Mr. Palcic was born. It's not new, it's not government-sponsored, and for the sake of this article, it doesn't address insurance companies that have denied care to people who could have survived.
    Just as health care professionals can't force a person to die, Mr. Palcic can't force them to live against their will.
    We all die, no matter how much money and resources we may use in trying to live forever. But when faced with undeniable terminal and irreversible illness, the concepts of peace and dignity may well be the desirable options for how that end comes.

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