Kathy Faber-Langendoen, MD; Jason H.T. Karlawish, MD; University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics Assisted Suicide Consensus Panel
Discussions in the media, courts, legislatures, and professional societies generally assume assistance with suicide to be a physician's task; in these venues it is commonly referred to as â€œphysician-assisted suicide.â€ This paper defines both the necessity and the limits of the physician's role in assisted suicide by asking the question: Should assisted suicide be only physician assisted? Although physician involvement is necessary, we argue that it is not sufficient to ensure that patients requesting assisted suicide receive the best care. Assisted suicide requires physician involvement, but physicians' limited competence in performing the full range of tasks, the competencies of other professions, and the possibility that other professions could expand their authority in this area suggest that physician-assisted suicide is a far too narrow construct of the task. The willingness of other professionalsâ€”including nurses, social workers, and clergyâ€”to participate and even take the lead in assisting suicides is critical to meet society's interest that assisted suicide should be humane, effective, and confined to appropriate cases. As long as legislation and guidelines focus exclusively on the physician's role, our laws and regulations will fall short of meeting societal expectations.
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Faber-Langendoen K, Karlawish JH, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics Assisted Suicide Consensus Panel. Should Assisted Suicide Be Only Physician Assisted?. Ann Intern Med. 2000;132:482-487. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-132-6-200003210-00010
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2000;132(6):482-487.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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