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March 2, 1990

Physician Participation in Assisted Suicide

Author Affiliations

University of Colorado Denver

University of Colorado Denver

JAMA. 1990;263(9):1197. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440090027008

To the Editor.—  Without condoning a reflex dispensing of lethal medications, I would nevertheless offer these counterpoints to the thoughtful article by Dr Orentlicher1 entitled "Physician Participation in Assisted Suicide."If, as he states, "a physician provides medical care for two reasons: to sustain life and to relieve suffering," it is clear that when these two worthy goals conflict, it is the patient's right to choose which alternative further medical intervention ought to serve. All of the caveats about what the patient might infer from a physician's acquiescence to assist suicide are well taken. However, they address no new duties for a physician who must always consider the results of his or her actions and words on a patient. Should the patient reject suicide, Dr Orentlicher asks, "Will the patient have the same degree of confidence in the physician's commitment to his or her care as previously?" It is