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July 1, 1974

Prolonging Life or Prolonging Dying

Author Affiliations

Queens Hospital Center Queens, NY

JAMA. 1974;229(1):25. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230390017011

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To the Editor.—  In his editorial entitled, "To Live—To Die" (228:501, 1974), O'Donnell discusses who has the prerogative to decide if and when extraordinary and highly sophisticated means of prolonging life should be withdrawn. O'Donnell is of the opinion that it is the prerogative of the patient, not the next of kin nor the physician, to make this decision. Nowhere is God brought into the picture. A patient who requests to be put out of his misery is, in fact, terminating his own life prematurely, an offense prohibited as a form of suicide in both Christian and Jewish teachings.Although sympathy and empathy with the terminally ill patient and the family are absolutely essential in the final hours of a person's life, suffering in and of itself may be part of the divine plan with which man has no right to tamper. This phase of faith remains a mystery, and