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May 22, 1967

The Burden of Responsibility

Author Affiliations

New Haven, Conn

JAMA. 1967;200(8):729. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03120210115031

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To the Editor:—  Dr. Solomon correctly emphasized the "burden of responsibility" of the physician in assessing the possible suicidal intent of his patients (199:321, 1967). In the case of the terminally ill patient, however, I take exception to his statement that the physician must "guard the patient against himself." Too often in the case of the patient dying with cancer, the physician is apt to neglect the rights of the patient in the interest of serving the wishes of others and to assuage his own guilt.In certain cases, where the chances that death will come are certain, I feel that the patient should be allowed to decide for himself if he wishes further treatment to prolong his life. Some patients when faced with this choice prefer to die intact. In the last analysis, the dignity of dying belongs to the patient, and this right should not be abrogated