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Books, Journals, New Media
January 26, 2005

Physician-Assisted Dying

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(4):497-502. doi:10.1001/jama.293.4.501-a

In this multiauthored book, attorney Kathryn L. Tucker best summarizes the complexities and contradictions in the “raging” debate over physician-assisted death and euthanasia:

A substantial majority of citizens believe that competent, terminally ill patients should have the option of receiving medication that patients could self-administer to bring about a humane and peaceful death if pain and suffering becomes intolerable, and a majority of physicians believe such patients should have this option. However, most states have statutes prohibiting assisting suicide. Although it is unclear that such laws were intended to reach the act of a physician prescribing medication that a dying patient could take to bring on a humane death, it is clear that the laws deter many physicians from doing so. Despite that, there is a widespread underground practice of physician-assisted dying. Thus in the debate now raging regarding physician-assisted dying, the question is not really whether the practice should occur but rather whether the practice should proceed clandestinely and unregulated or openly and regulated to protect patients and accommodate legitimate state interests.

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