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Comment & Response
June 7, 2016

Responding to a Request for Physician-Assisted Death

Author Affiliations
  • 1Valley Medical and Surgical Clinic, PC Group Practice, Valley, Alabama
JAMA. 2016;315(21):2351-2352. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.4027

To The Editor Dr Quill and colleagues1 argued that “commonly recognized ethical principles” provide guidance supporting physician-assisted death. However, they did not provide citations for this assertion, which is the foundation for their conclusion. What are these “ethical principles?” They do not come from the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Greek tradition as represented by Hippocrates, or the well-known principle “first do no harm.” Do they have roots in English common law or historic Western philosophy? I do not believe so. Physician-assisted death is a modern concept arising mostly from utilitarian concerns and not grounded in the basic ontology of human life and humanity. The question is not if an individual may choose to take his or her own life. The question is if physicians should participate in taking a life. An affirmative answer must have clear warrant grounded in the very basis of human life and not in any specific perception of good. In an age in which harm is viewed in terms of unnecessary testing and procedures, then it is an exercise in mental gymnastics to argue that taking a life is not a harm. Ending suffering by taking life is dehumanizing and as such lacks any form of dignity.

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