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Health Care Reform
July 26, 1999

Freud's Physician-Assisted Death

Arch Intern Med. 1999;159(14):1521-1525. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.14.1521

How long must I continue to suffer such intolerable pain? When will I be permitted to accept "sweet peace" or even to ask for it? —Sigmund Freud

IN 1923, Sigmund Freud, an academic neurologist and the first psychoanalyst, was found to have a malignant oral epithelioma. By 1939, at the age of 83 years, he had endured for many years the necessity of using crude prostheses simply to talk and eat, terrible suffering from more than 30 surgical procedures, repeated courses of primitive x-ray and radium therapy, and disruptions to his life from Nazi persecution. In spite of the suffering from his chronic illness and disrupted professional life, his record of productivity during those 16 years was impressive. When his pain was no longer bearable, however, he asked his physician to honor a long-standing agreement to assist him in preemption of certain death from cancer.1

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