Jack Coulehan, MD
Public opinion polls show that a large percentage of persons in the United States currently favor the legalization of professionally assisted death.This support reflects wide-spread fear and confusion over the tortuously prolonged and painful process of dying countenanced by contemporary medicine. Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are complex moral issues. The current drive to translate them into debates about “rights” and public policy is curious: Does the energy directed toward “palliation-by-death” mean that our society is more compassionate now, or more just, than in the past? To the contrary, I believe that the movement toward assisted death reflects inadequate palliative care, poor patient–physician communication, great confusion about the right to refuse treatment, and profound inequity in U.S. health care. Legalization of assisted death diverts us from addressing these problems. Palliation-by-death will drive us farther apart, not closer together.
Coulehan J. The Man with Stars Inside. Ann Intern Med. ;126:799–802. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-126-10-199705150-00010
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1997;126(10):799-802.
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