Oz weighs in on 'right to die' issue
By MICHAEL STARR
Mehmet Oz says his career as a cardiothoracic surgeon shaped his opinion that it's OK for doctors to "legally" assist suffering patients in hastening their death -- a topic covered on last Tuesday's combustible episode of "The Dr. Oz Show."
"Much of [my opinion] evolved in my practice of cardiac surgery," Oz told The Post. "When you see how devastating it can be to see loved ones melting away in the ICU because no one is taking ownership and allowing them dignity . . .
"It's a huge emotional burden to put on a family," he said. "Why would I put that pressure on you? Why would I want to put you in that place? It's part of our healing responsibility to take that burden off."
Tuesday's show, entitled "Do You Have the Right to End Your Own Life?" featured several guests, including former talk show host Montel Williams and Dr. Keith Ablow, who sparred over the issue.
Williams, who's suffered from MS since 1999, once contemplated suicide and favors the right for someone to end his or her life. Ablow argued against the hot-button topic.
Tuesday's show also included a woman suffering from incurable neuromuscular disease, who can move only her head, is confined to a wheelchair, says she's "living in hell" and would commit suicide if given the option (her daughter agreed).
Another man, who's been confined to a wheelchair since 1988 with similar issues -- and uses a breathing tube -- disagreed, saying he'd lost hope until meeting his current wife.
At the end of the show, Oz delivered his opinion on the subject.
"I believe that if someone is terminally ill and at a point which they feel they can no longer continue to enjoy any quality of life -- they've lost their dignity -- their doctor should be able to legally prescribe medication to help them end their lives with that dignity," he said.
"Because, for me, that's what it's all about -- and I believe that doctors should be able to help patients even more in desperate situations."
The show generated the most traffic to the "Dr. Oz" Web site in the show's history.
Oz was asked if he had any reservations about sharing his opinion on the subject on his own show.
"We had a big [internal] discussion about that," he said. "I felt that, listen, if I'm going to tell my family [this] because I feel strongly about it, I owe it to our audience that trusts me to tell them the same thing.
"I think heart surgery, by nature, means you'll lose two-to-three people out of a hundred -- a dozen people a year don't make it," he said. "Once a month I'm meeting with people who have to make a life-or-death decision -- that forces you, it fuels you, to address these issues."