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April 8, 1988

Doctors Must Not Kill'

JAMA. 1988;259(14):2139-2140. doi:10.1001/jama.1988.03720140059034

IN THE middle of the night, a sleepy gynecology resident is called to attend a young woman, dying of cancer, whom he has never seen before. Horrified by her severe distress, and proceeding alone without consultation with anyone, he gives her a lethal injection of morphine, clearly intending the death that promptly ensues. The resident submits a first-person account of his killing to the Journal of the American Medical Association. Without any editorial comment, JAMA publishes the account, withholding the author's name at his request. What in the world is going on?

Before the sophisticated obscure our vision with clouds of arguments and subtle qualifications, we must fix our gaze on the brute facts.

First, on his own admission, the resident appears to have committed a felony: premeditated murder. Direct intentional homicide is a felony in all American jurisdictions, for which the plea of merciful motive is no excuse. That