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October 12, 1998

Suicide, Hastening Death, and Psychiatry

Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(18):1973-1976. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.18.1973

THE NEW attention being paid to patients at the end of life,1,2 the accelerating number of deaths preceded by the decision to withhold or withdraw life-support treatment,3 and the impassioned arguments about physician-assisted suicide4 all signify that a monumental change has taken place in medical care. The hospice movement has articulated the belief that aggressive, highly technological medical care is unsuitable for many individuals,5 and life-limiting medical decisions have become increasingly more acceptable. Even euthanasia, with its direct link to suicide, has become subject to a healthy and vigorous debate in professional journals, the mass media, and the US Supreme Court.6,7