By Patricia OConnell
LEOMINSTER – Dr. Mark Rollo held up a large bottle of pills. Inside were replicas of the lethal drugs that could soon be dispensed if the “Death With Dignity” act passes in Massachusetts.
This will appear on the ballot this November as Question 2.
“There is nothing dignified about suicide and there is nothing dignified about a doctor killing his patient,” he told a group of people at the Leominster Knights of Columbus hall Monday.
The presentation on physician-assisted suicide was sponsored by St. Anna Parish and the local K of C.
Dr. Rollo, a family practitioner in Fitchburg, explained why this measure is dangerous. The “Death With Dignity” act will allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with a prescription.
“The approval will accelerate the creeping culture of death into a full sprint,” he stated.
Killing patients, he noted, is not good medicine. The Greek physician Hippocrates, who lived 400 years before Christ, also practiced at a time when the value of human life was disregarded, as it is today.
Hippocrates vowed to “never give a deadly drug to anybody who asks for it,” according to Dr. Rollo. He outlined why this highly unethical.
“A doctor cannot be both a healer and a killer without losing the trust of his patients, he stated.
The “Death With Dignity” act defines “terminal” as six months or less to live. However, Dr. Rollo said this prediction is notoriously inaccurate.
“As a physician, I can tell you doctors are often mistaken in diagnosis and prognosis,” he explained, citing the case of a young man wrongly told he had Lou Gehrig’s disease, a devastating illness with a typically fatal course. This person is now 70.
Dr. Rollo said the Massachusetts ballot item “lacks basic safeguards.”
“They say there are many safeguards,” he said of proponents. “These safeguards are virtually non-existent.”
Question 2 would allow someone to request to end their life in the presence of two witnesses. One may be a relative or an heir.
Also, follow-up monitoring of the patient is not required, according to Dr. Rollo, who explained the prescribing doctor wouldn’t know if a patient changed their mind. It’s possible that once the lethal drugs are dispensed, they could be given without a patient’s knowledge or consent, he said.
Because assisted-suicide is relatively inexpensive, insurers may influence patients by refusing to provide coverage for life-extending procedures, he added.
“There’s a potential for you or for your loved ones to be killed as part of a cost-cutting measure,” he said. “Do you really want to see a doctor who can kill you?”
Dr. Rollo said physicians who assisted in suicide will be forced to lie. Question 2 requires the underlying condition be listed on the death certificate, rather than suicide.
“Lying and killing often go together,” he stated. “Satan himself is referred to as a murderer and the father of lies.”
Dr. Rollo, a Catholic who’s been at the forefront of local pro-life efforts, likened Question 2 to abortion. He said most doctors won’t do assisted-suicide, but some will.
“There will be suicide clinics,” he predicted.
Dr. Rollo said assisted suicide, in the future, will likely expand to include people with manageable conditions such as HIV infection or diabetes. Eventually, he noted, this could devolve into involuntary euthanasia, now practiced in The Netherlands.
“Once you allow doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia will not be far behind,” he said. “In The Netherlands the elderly are afraid to go to the hospital.”
Currently, in this country, assisted-suicide is legal in only two states. Oregon was the first to pass Measure 16 “Death with Dignity” in 1994.
It’s been an unmitigated disaster, according to Dr. Rollo, who cited several controversial cases.
One Oregon woman, he said, suffered a stroke. Her daughter asked her doctor to discontinue life support. When the patient survived, the doctor administered morphine and Valium. Later, he placed a magnet over her pacemaker in an attempt to disrupt it. Finally, he administered a paralytic drug to kill her.
After the case was publicized, the doctor lost his license for 60 days. He’s currently practicing medicine.
Another woman, he noted, chose suicide because it was covered, while medical care wasn’t.
Dr. Rollo said Question 2 is promoted by a group called Compassion & Choices, formerly known as the Hemlock Society. The American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Medical Society are both opposed to doctor-assisted suicide, he noted.
He said the name Compassion & Choices is misleading. “There is nothing compassionate about killing,” he concluded.
Dr. Rollo is affiliated with the Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide, a Waltham-based group presenting secular arguments in hopes of convincing people to vote “no” on Question 2. The Catholic bishops in Massachusetts have another campaign to fight doctor-prescribed suicide.
Proponents of assisted suicide, according to Dr. Rollo, are heavily funded. The Massachusetts Alliance Against Doctor-Prescribed Suicide, so far, has only raised $200,000.
Dr. Rollo urged people to donate to this organization, which they can do online at www.NoOnQuestion2.org .
PHOTO: Dr. Mark Rollo holds up a large bottle of pills.