Franklin G. Miller, PhD; Diane E. Meier, MD
The controversial issue of legalizing physician-assisted suicide should be considered in light of legally available alternative methods of voluntary death. The increasingly polarized debate over this issue has failed to give due attention to an alternative: terminal dehydration. By voluntarily forgoing food and water, competent patients with terminal or incurable illness can escape intolerable, irremediable conditions without requiring transformation of the law and medical ethics. Terminal dehydration offers substantial advantages over physician-assisted suicide with respect to self-determination, access, professional integrity, and social implications but also has distinctive drawbacks as a humane means of voluntary death. This article analyzes clinical, ethical, and policy issues related to terminal dehydration compared with physician-assisted suicide.
Franklin G. Miller, Diane E. Meier. Voluntary Death: A Comparison of Terminal Dehydration and Physician-Assisted Suicide. Ann Intern Med. 1998;128:559–562. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-128-7-199804010-00007
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1998;128(7):559-562.
Endocrine and Metabolism, Fluid and Electrolyte Disorders, Nephrology.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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