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November 1996

Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Be Legalized

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Family Practice, Michigan State University, East Lansing.

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(11):1182-1183. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550110134023

Bernat, in the accompanying article, has nicely summarized important arguments both favoring and opposing physician-assisted suicide (PAS). In the public arena, the debate might appear at first to be one of extremes. On one side are those demanding a total ban on PAS. On the other are those who claim that PAS is a constitutional right and should remain unregulated, as a private transaction between patient and physician.

Within medical circles, however, the conceptual distance separating the disputants ought to be much narrower. Colleagues and I have argued that no physician can advocate, with integrity, anything resembling "PAS on demand." The alternative to an outright ban on PAS is PAS only as a last resort for a small group of carefully selected patients.1-3

Bernat further focuses attention on one of the most critical elements in the debate—the impact of PAS policy on palliative care. He argues, as have many

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