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December 27, 1995

Physician-Assisted Suicide

Author Affiliations

Oregon State University Corvallis
Philomath Family Medicine Philomath, Ore

JAMA. 1995;274(24):1910-1911. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530240020024

To the Editor.  —The article by Ms Alpers and Dr Lo1 leaves readers with erroneous impressions regarding Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. We question whether their strategies for implementation will achieve their stated goal of improving care for terminally ill patients. The Death With Dignity Act did not legalize physician "assisted suicide" in Oregon, contrary to both the title and content of the essay. Assistance in suicide remains illegal under a 1983 Oregon statute.2 The Death with Dignity Act explicitly states that the provision by a physician of patient-requested prescriptive medications to end life does not constitute assisted suicide. Moreover, it is misleading to characterize the act as authorizing physician assistance in dying, an approach that diminishes the significance of other caregivers in the process, including consultants, psychiatrists, nurses, pharmacists, and institutions. Alpers and Lo give physicians an unwarranted professional primacy, which we believe will lead not to

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