Dr Oz: Doctors’ Moral Responsibility To Terminally Ill Patients


Dr Oz: Doctors & Moral Responsibility

In the heated debate about the Right To Suicide, Dr. Oz turned to other medical professionals to examine the issue of what a doctor’s moral obligation is when it comes to patients and suicide.

Dr. Devon Webster is a cancer specialist, who herself is living with Multiple Sclerosis. She is also a cancer survivor, and has encountered many patients suffering from chronic or terminal illnesses.


Dr Oz: Doctors Moral Obligation

What is the moral obligation of doctors when dealing with chronically ill, suicidal patients?

Dr. Devon Webster: Death With Dignity Act

Dr. Webster said she is proud to discuss the Death With Dignity Act when patients bring it up. This is the Oregon law that allows patients to make decisions about their own deaths, under specific guidelines and legal requirements.

Dr. Webster said she does not believe that the Death With Dignity Act defies the Hippocratic Oath, but Dr. Keith Ablow, an anti-suicide advocate, said he does not want to see a doctor who is experienced at ending people’s lives.


Dr. Ablow said he is appaled by Dr. Webster’s actions, and said her opinions do not make her a a good doctor. That’s a harsh attitude to take. Who determines whether someone is a good doctor?

Dr Oz: Dr. Devon Webster Vs Dr. Keith Ablow

Dr. Webster disagreed with Dr. Ablow, saying that it’s not up to any one person to determine what counts as suffering in other people’s lives. Dr. Ablow argued that doctors should be in the business of preserving life, not ending it.

As Dr. Ablow pointed out, no doctor or patient can truly know what the future holds, or how they might feel years down the road. He believed that Dr. Webster should embrace his definition of the Hippocratic Oath and that patients like Dana, whom we met earlier in the show, should live to inspire and motivate others.

Read Dana’s Story & Thoughts On Right To Die

Dr Oz: Compassion and Choices

Dr. Barbara Coombs Lee is the president of Compassion and Choices, a foundation that exists to help patients who are struggling with these legal and medical issues.

She said that her foundation isn’t in the business of advocating death. It works with terminally ill patients, whose deaths are imminent and unavoidable, to help them go out on their own terms.

Dr Oz: Natural Death From Chronic Disease

Another medical professional, Dr. Ira Bycock, of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, had a different perspective on Dana’s case.

He believed that her condition and others like it give sufferers the ability to die naturally, without intervention. He said that alleviating a patient’s suffering is not the same as ending their life.

Dr. Oz posed a provocative question to Dana: If given the choice to refuse all medical treatment, including antibiotics, tubes, and other lifesaving measures, would she take it? Dana did not have an answer for the doctors, but it’s given us all something to think about.


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