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June 14, 2000

Legislation and End-of-Life Care—Reply

Author Affiliations

Phil B.FontanarosaMD, Deputy EditorIndividualAuthorStephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Contributing EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 2000;283(22):2933. doi:10.1001/jama.283.22.2931

In Reply: We are heartened to hear that physicians like Dr Gloth are not deterred from providing aggressive palliative care by the prospect of misguided criminal prosecution. Unfortunately, not all physicians share this attitude. We frequently find physicians who exaggerate their risks of legal liability for end-of-life practices, even when the practices are clearly permitted by law. Legal concerns about the withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment are an important example. The unfortunate reality is that physicians greatly overestimate the possibility of legal repercussions. When criminal prosecutions carry the possibility of sentences up to life imprisonment, as is the case with PRPA, it is not surprising that physicians would be especially reluctant to take their chances with the law.