Physician-assisted death refers to a practice by which
physicians provide the means for a person to voluntarily cause his or her own
death. This is usually done by prescribing lethal doses of medicine. Although
indirectly participating in the person's death, the physician does not directly
cause the death. Only a few states, such as Oregon and Washington, have
legalized physician-assisted death.
A person with a terminal
illness may think about physician-assisted death. Among the factors that may
cause a person to consider ending his or her life are pain, depression, and
fear of becoming dependent on others. A person who is dying may be concerned
about being a burden to others and may not realize that loved ones want to
provide care as an expression of love and as part of their own healthy
Often when a person with a terminal illness considers
physician-assisted death, his or her physical or emotional symptoms are not
being managed effectively. Symptoms associated with the dying process (such as
pain, depression, or nausea) can be controlled. Talk to your health
professional and family about your symptoms, especially if these symptoms are
so bothersome you are considering ending your life.
July 6, 2012
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
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