I Will Not Kill You: A Promise to Patient Sam

In February the Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously in favor of the right to physician-assisted suicide. The Court has ordered the federal government to pass legislation to this effect within one year, being careful to stipulate that physicians should not be required to adminster death on demand.

Sam I AmSince then, however, the Ontario College of Physicians has already produced policies attempting to force doctors to refer for drugs and procedures, and even to perform certain procedures, that go against their consciences. It is all too easy to look ahead and see the checks and balances presently surrounding the pending euthanasia legislation gradually eroded to the point where co-operation with suicide is forced not only upon physicians but upon elderly and disabled patients.

When my wife Karen, a family doctor, heard about all this she commented, “If the Supreme Court thinks it’s a good idea to kill people, why don’t the Chief Justices do this dirty work themselves? Why burden the doctors?” She also cited the Hippocratic Oath, which she was required to swear at the beginning of medical school, and which still stands as a benchmark of medical ethics. This oath states clearly:

“I will take care that [my patients] suffer no hurt or damage. Nor shall any person’s entreaty prevail upon me to administer poison to anyone; neither will I counsel anyone to do so.”

A colleague of Karen’s, Dr. Dan MacIntosh, wrote the following poem in response to the Supreme Court’s decision. Here, with apologies to Dr. Seuss, is “A Promise to Patient Sam”:

I will not kill you, patient Sam,
your family doctor that I am
I will not kill you if disabled
or any other way you’re labeled
I will not kill you if demented
even if your spouse consented
I will not kill you if depressed
or for a crime you have confessed
I will not kill you in any season
even if compelling reason
I will not kill you, patient Sam,
your family doctor that I am
I will not kill you with a knife
if your life is full of strife
I will not kill you with a bag
when your body starts to sag
I will not kill you with a drug,
baseball bat or Beretta slug
I will not kill you if wheelchair bound,
though life’s meaning can’t be found
I will not kill you, patient Sam,
your family doctor that I am
I will not kill you for a fee,
on a hill or in a tree
I will not kill you at your home,
hospital, or where you roam
I will not kill you if you’re a pain,
If, of my existence, you’re the bane
I will not kill you if you’re still ill
despite my surgery and pill
I will not kill you, patient Sam,
your family doctor that I am
I will not kill you if requested,
the legal mandate might be tested
I will not kill you if unborn,
sore, deformed or forlorn
(The Hippocratic Oath I have sworn)
I will not kill you because I care
and value your life that is there
I will not kill you but commit
compassionate care till your heart does quit
I will not kill you, patient Sam,
your family doctor that I am.

Finally, hear the words of Fr Brian Grogan: “The process of dying is to be seen as the final stage of human growth. God is busy, hollowing us out so that we can ‘be filled with the utter fullness of God’ (Eph 3:19). All secondary issues are being set aside—health, possessions, money, status, opinions—and ultimately the effort to cling to one’s very self becomes a distraction. God is working in the depths of our being, whether we know it or not. Made for God, we are being restored to the divine.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail
Posted in Blog and tagged , , .
  • Violet N.

    Hi Mike, enjoyed your “How to Stop Fighting With Your Spouse” series, and now this! Enjoyed Dr. MacIntosh’s poem. What a fun way of being direct on a most serious subject.

    I really love the Fr. Grogan quote and this part: “God is busy, hollowing us out so that we can ‘be filled with the utter fullness of God.’” Death is such a mystery and watching my mother die almost 10 years ago now, I was struck by how tenacious her hold on life was. The idea of dying being a stage is comforting in some way… we are still working (no matter how out-of-it we appear to others) to attain that final point of ripeness before we drop off the vine.