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July 17, 1996

Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Author Affiliations

Saint Vincents Hospital and Medical Center New York, NY

JAMA. 1996;276(3):196. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540030030019

To the Editor.  —In their survey of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Washington State, Dr Back and colleagues1 report that among the 12% of physicians who received requests for physician-assisted suicide, there was a range of 1 to 20 requests per physician. Likewise, among the 4% of physicians who received requests for euthanasia, the range was from 1 to 10 requests per physician. It is unlikely that chance alone explains the clustering of requests to a few physicians. This finding suggests that physicians' attitudes toward termination of life might be a significant factor in eliciting requests from patients. To help clarify this point further, the authors should provide the frequency distribution of requests by physician, and information regarding whether physicians who had more requests had a greater likelihood of providing medication per request than those who had fewer requests. The authors conclude that "patient requests for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia