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November 1996

Physician-Assisted Suicide Should Not Be Legalized

Author Affiliations

From the Neurology Section, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, NH.

Arch Neurol. 1996;53(11):1183-1184. doi:10.1001/archneur.1996.00550110135024

Over the past 5 years, a number of states, notably those on the Pacific Coast, have proposed bills to legalize physicianassisted suicide (PAS). The Oregon bill1 was voted into law in November 1994 but is not in effect pending judicial examination of its constitutionality. Support for legalizing PAS results from a widespread public concern that dying patients receive inadequate palliative care and that they suffer unnecessarily as a result. Proponents believe that legalization of PAS, by empowering dying patients to choose the time, place, and mode of their death, will best solve this problem. I believe that legalizing PAS represents misguided public policy because the unintended but predictable societal problems it will create are unacceptably great and because it harmfully diverts the emphasis of physicians' duties to their dying patients from its proper place, the provision of palliative care. I have made this argument in greater detail elsewhere.2

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