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August 18, 1993

Compassion Needs Reason Too

Author Affiliations

From the Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC. Reprints not available.

JAMA. 1993;270(7):874-875. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03510070096044

A GROWING number of physicians today believe that it is morally permissible, perhaps even required, to assist certain of their patients in the act of suicide.1-4 They take their inspiration from Quill's account of the way he assisted his young patient, Diane, to kill herself.5 They are impressed by Quill's compassion and respect for his patient. Like him, they would limit the physician's participation in suicide to extreme cases in which suffering is unrelenting, unrelievable, and unbearable. Like him, they follow a flawed line of moral reasoning in which a compassionate response to a request for assisted suicide is deemed sufficient in itself to justify an ethically indefensible act.

See also pp 870 and 875.

In his article6 in this issue of The Journal, Quill provides a more formal and systematic outline of what he believes the appropriate response of physicians should be to a request for