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August 11, 1997

Physician-Assisted SuicideCompassionate Care or Brave New World?

Author Affiliations

University of Florida College of Medicine PO Box 100254 1600 SW Archer Rd Gainesville, FL 32610-0254

Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(15):1638-1640. doi:10.1001/archinte.1997.00440360028002

ACTIVE DISCUSSION regarding the issue of physician-assisted suicide, ie, the prescription of a lethal quantity of a drug by request to a terminally ill patient, has recently appeared in several publications.1-3 The debate is embodied by 2 dichotomous principles:

  1. Opponents of physician-assisted suicide cite the Hippocratic tradition of primum non nocere (first do no harm). They maintain that despite society's acceptance of the physician's more passive involvement in withdrawal or withholding of therapy, a more active role in assisting suicide is unacceptable.

  2. Proponents of physician-assisted suicide, however, hold that physicians of terminally ill patients must not abandon them at the end of life. They charge that if the patient wishes control over the time and means of his or her death, there is a right and, perhaps, an implied duty of the physician to be of assistance.

It is our sense, previously stated in an article by

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