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Books, Journals, New Media
January 8, 2003

Assisted Suicide

Author Affiliations

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.

JAMA. 2003;289(2):233-234. doi:10.1001/jama.289.2.233

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.

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