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May 6, 1998

The Role of the Psychiatrist in a Patient's Request to Die

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;279(17):1346. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-279-17-jbk0506

To the Editor.—Dr Muskin1 acknowledges the importance of involving psychiatrists in the evaluation of patients requesting physician-assisted suicide, but while he discusses the significance of the physical pain that often precipitates such requests, he makes little mention of the role psychiatrists should have in managing this problem.

Muskin appears to believe that nonpsychiatrists involved in the care of terminally ill patients can be depended on to have the skill to treat pain. Sadly, multiple studies have shown that many primary care physicians, oncologists, and surgeons treating these patients receive little education in this area and often provide inadequate pain management.2,3