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December 27, 1995

Physician-Assisted Suicide

Author Affiliations

University of Oklahoma Tulsa

JAMA. 1995;274(24):1911. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530240020025

To the Editor.  —Ms Alpers and Dr Lo1 have correctly identified Oregon's effort to legalize physician-assisted suicide as a "bold experiment." However, their analysis fails to adequately address the issue on two counts: does suicide assistance constitute health care and is it rightly seen as a benefit?The first question begs for an answer, perhaps because it seems self-evident. Why should suicide assistance come through a physician's involvement? In truth, the medical expertise required to successfully poison someone is not so great as to require a medical degree. A physician's involvement seems desirable because of the trust placed in the profession, a trust that will be severely undermined if the profession takes it upon itself to bring about patients' deaths. As the authors point out, this assistance would not even require a long-term relationship with the patient, but could commence at the first visit. To their credit, the authors

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