Dr. Shelly Berkowitz and Dr. Kate Atkinson: Doctors support End of Life Options Act

Published: 1/21/2022 1:12:56 PM
Modified: 1/21/2022 1:11:51 PM

Sen. Jo Comerford got it right, Dr. Mark Rollo’s comments in a Jan. 15 letter are misleading (“Wishes Comerford would drop fight for physician-assisted suicide”).

As family physicians in this community who have cared for patients in all phases of life, and who have a long history of support for racial and class equity, we are taken aback by Dr. Rollo’s misleading tactics to try and prevent the passage of the End of Life Options Act, which would legalize Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) in Massachusetts.

To avoid honestly stating his own personal stance against MAID, Dr. Rollo “cherry picks” and references long outdated polls from small sections of Massachusetts to advance the ridiculous idea that MAID represents an effort of wealthy white authorities to inflict some sort of fantasmagorical set of atrocities upon the poor.

Yes, we believe that disadvantaged people of all races should have the right to choose MAID, if they so wish. We do not believe Dr. Rollo represents the views of any particular portion of the diverse Massachusetts public. We find Dr. Rollo’s reference the Nazi “euthanasia” program (as a means of attacking the Death with Dignity Act) to be not merely offensive, but egregiously mendacious . As a child whose parents were both Holocaust survivors, Dr. Berkowitz is only willing to support MAID (End of Life Options Act) because of the stringent safeguards in place in the Massachusetts bill.

Dr. Rollo states, “it was not the Nazis who taught the doctors how to kill; it was the other way around.” The “Jewish Virtual Library” notes on their pages regarding Nazi murder, that the term euthanasia reflects the Nazi penchant for euphemism and that there was no intent to provide mercy for those suffering from painful terminal conditions, but rather, the killing program reflected the philosophy of “racial purity” — eugenics was the philosophical cornerstone of Nazi doctrine. The initial orders to begin the Nazi T-4 (“euthanasia”) program was given to Dr. Karl Brandt by Adolf Hitler in 1939. Nazi doctors were following proverbial orders.

In short, Dr. Rollo is either quite misinformed or purposely spreading overtly false information because he is personally against MAID. It must be noted that no victim of the Nazi T-4/“euthanasia” program every requested death. The Nazis, as any student of history knows, used the T-4 program to develop their system of gas chambers disguised as shower rooms. People were deceptively murdered in line with violent Nazi policies toward all people who had no place in their eugenic utopia. This program never had a medical foundation, but used medical jargon as a front for racist murder.

Please refrain from distracting hyperbole when discussing these issues, and allow people to have the option to make their own personal, voluntary choices. Let’s be perfectly clear about what MAID is: It is about rational, mentally clear individuals with a terminal illness who want to have a choice to end their own suffering and pain on their own terms.

As in other states where MAID has been legalized, we do not expect this option to be frequently used by our patients. We simply want the choice to be available for our patients when appropriate.

Dr. Shelly Berkowitz of Northampton and Dr. Kate Atkinson of Amherst.

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