Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Doctor's Honor, a Specialty's Slight

Interesting irony in the current issue of Boston Magazine: Eileen McNamara has written a strong essay criticizing the Archdiocese of Boston for its methods of opposition to the Dignity 2012 effort to get physician-assisted suicide on the state ballot. 
The piece opens with a recounting of the death by self-inflicted gunshot of PAS proponent and physician Marcia Angell’s terminally ill father more than a decade ago -- just one of many compelling stories that argue in the ballot measure’s favor. Massachusetts residents are sure to hear many more between now and Election Day.
The irony: The edition also features Boston Magazine’s annual accounting of Boston’s top doctors and their specialties. In each specialty, several physicians are held up for distinction. That is, in each specialty but one. In Hospice and Palliative Medicine, there is only one physician honored.
Entering a year that will sizzle with debate over respect for a person’s dignity and dying wishes and the morality and ethics of physicians involving themselves in ending lives, it’s telling, and a shame, that hospice and palliative physicians don’t carry more prestige. Because end-of-life care, and the complex and crucial communications involved, are what make it such an important a speciality.
All the same, congratulations to Vicki Jackson of Mass General for her somehow singular achievement.   

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