Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorJody W.ZylkeMD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor
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.
Kaldjian LC. Patient-Physician Discussions About Physician-Assisted Suicide. JAMA. 2001;286(7):788-789. doi:10.1001/jama.286.7.788-a