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October 10, 1990

Road to Euthanasia or Right to Refuse Care?

Author Affiliations

Society for the Right to Die New York, NY

Society for the Right to Die New York, NY

JAMA. 1990;264(14):1809. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450140029017

To the Editor.—  The recent article by Dr Sprung1 and the accompanying editorial by Dr Carton2 provide measured expositions of two viewpoints on termination of life-sustaining treatment. Dr Sprung fears that by stopping life support in an increasing number of situations we have started on a path that will lead inexorably to devaluing human life. Dr Carton makes the point that the danger of active involuntary euthanasia does not justify the opposite extreme of automatically sustaining nonsentient molecular life under all circumstances.An important issue that neither viewpoint raises is our current deficiency in providing adequate palliative care for people at the end of life, whether or not life support is provided. Physicians may have become more at ease with stopping life support in certain circumstances, but they still do little to relieve the pain and emotional suffering of dying people. The article by Dr Sprung suggests that