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November 12, 1997

Physician-Assisted Suicide: The Dutch Case-Reply

Author Affiliations

Oregon Health Sciences University Portland

JAMA. 1997;278(18):1493. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550180043029

In my review I expressed concern that, at times, Dr Hendin contradicted himself. This reflects my conviction that the debate about assisted suicide deserves carefully crafted and consistent reasoning.

Hendin asserts that his most notable suggestion regarding the Dutch patient, whom he never met, was that time alone would have helped. In his book, however, he recommends a "less narrowly focused psychotherapy," a trial of medication and involvement in a youth suicide prevention program. He wrote that the patient "needed someone who could tell her in a firm but kind way that she had never really lived for herself and that it was not too late to try." In other cases he criticizes physicians' interactions with dying patients and makes psychotherapeutic recommendations, even though he interviewed neither the patients nor the physicians. The reader may be misled into believing that dying persons who desire hastened death simply need more psychiatric