In his Aug. 18 op-ed, “When a friend asks to die ,” Jerald Winakur mischaracterized the care and death of my husband, John Rehm, who died on June 23, when he said my husband’s “doctor refused [our] request for assistance in ending his life.”
On June 12, John and I met with Roy Fried, his attending physician. My husband indicated he was ready to die. He said that because of Parkinson’s disease, he could no longer use his hands, arms or legs; he could no longer stand on his own, bathe, feed or toilet himself. John said he was fully aware of the trajectory of his disease and asked Dr. Fried to end his life.
Dr. Fried’s response still echoes in my mind. He said, “As a physician here in the state of Maryland, I am prohibited legally, morally and ethically from helping you die. However, you do have an option. You can cease to drink liquids, take medication or any food.”
At first John was outraged and said he felt “betrayed.” He believed that the decision to die was his and his alone. However, since he was in one of 46 states that prohibits a physician from helping a patient die, he had very few choices.
John asked whether he would be in pain should he cease eating and drinking. Dr. Fried promised he would provide guidance and care throughout the process to ensure that John’s death would occur with a minimum of discomfort. He said he was saddened by John’s wish to die, but respected him and would support him in his decision. And he did.
John’s doctor never refused to provide assistance. Indeed, he was helpful in every way, to the extent the laws of Maryland allow.
Diane Rehm, Washington