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August 15, 2001

Patient-Physician Discussions About Physician-Assisted Suicide

Author Affiliations

Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2001;286(7):788-789. doi:10.1001/jama.286.7.788-a

To the Editor: In their study of Oregon physicians' attitudes and experiences regarding end-of-life care since the passage of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, Dr Ganzini and colleagues1 report that physicians who are willing to prescribe a lethal medication were twice as likely to have received an explicit request for assisted suicide from a patient. Given their extensive research on physician-assisted suicide, it would be helpful if they could explain their interpretation of this finding. The importance of this observation pertains to the psychologically rich context of the patient-physician relationship.2 While exposure to patient requests for assisted suicide might increase physician willingness to write a lethal prescription, the alternative explanation should also be entertained: physician attitudes (implicit or explicit) favoring assisted suicide may influence patient behavior, making some patients more inclined to request assisted suicide if they perceive that their physician will be receptive to the request.

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