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November 27, 1996

Drug Use in Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

Author Affiliations

VA Puget Sound Health Care System and University of Washington Seattle, Wash

JAMA. 1996;276(20):1688. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540200074039

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


One premise underlying the physicianassisted death movement is that medications can be used to hasten death in a way that is comfortable, dignified, and effective. This book examines that premise critically, with surprising results. It is not a suicide manual for patients or an assisted death manual for physicians, but rather a multiauthor collection of papers aimed at readers who wish to evaluate the practice of physician-assisted death.

The editors have chosen authors from diverse professional backgrounds (pharmacy, nursing, law, philosophy, medicine) and personal views. Aside from the idea that physician-assisted death is something that deserves serious consideration, no editorial morality has been imposed, and no concluding recommendations are offered.

Most important, what this book contributes to the debate over physicianassisted death are some empirical observations about drug use, drug efficacy, and practical consequences of hastening death under the supervision of experienced and inexperienced caregivers. Thomas Preston and Ralph Mero