Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet
S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University
of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor; adviser
for new media, Robert Hogan, MD, San Diego.
The long debate over the legalization and permissibility of euthanasia
or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has been filled with paradoxes. Actions
and words by supporters have, paradoxically, prompted a strong backlash impeding
efforts at legalization. This was particularly true of Kevorkian's televised
euthanization of Mr Youk, which torpedoed the PAS vote in Michigan. Similarly,
polling data demonstrate that support for euthanasia and PAS is prompted primarily
by sympathy for dying patients writhing in pain. But, paradoxically, almost
all the available data indicate that pain is not a primary reason terminally
ill patients are interested in euthanasia or PAS. The public opposes euthanasia
or PAS for patients suffering from depression, but this is the strongest reason
driving interest in euthanasia or PAS. Supporters of euthanasia or PAS are
liberals who justify their views by appealing to concern and care for the
vulnerable and suffering, portraying the opposition as indifferent to people's
pain. But, paradoxically, the most vulnerable regarding euthanasia and PAS—the
elderly, minorities, and disabled—are overwhelmingly opposed to legalization.
Emanuel EJ. Assisted Suicide. JAMA. 2003;289(2):233–234. doi:10.1001/jama.289.2.233
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