Physician Assisted Suicide
A recent note in the New England J. Med discussed a poll on whether physician assisted suicide should be permitted.
To begin, experts provided opposing viewpoints on physician-assisted suicide. J. Donald Boudreau and Margaret Somerville of McGill University argued that physicians should not be permitted to assist in suicide as doing so conflicts with the duty of physicians to heal.
Nikola Biller-Andorno of the University of Zurich presented the position that physicians have a duty not only to heal but also to ease suffering and that in the case of some patients, this may involve assisting them in ending their lives.
U.S. readers from 49 states cast 1712 votes. In those votes from the US, 67% of the readers thought that physician-assisted suicide should not be permitted. Eighteen U.S. states had a majority of votes supporting physician-assisted suicide. Interestingly, Oregon and Washington, where physician-assisted suicide is permitted were not in that group.
From posted comments it was noted that those readers who opposed physician-assisted suicide questioned "whether suicide was a civil right or a human right, expressed the belief that assisting suicide violated a physician's oath to do no harm, and worried about a slippery slope in which physician-assisted suicide could eventually lead to euthanasia."
On the other side, remarks favoring physician-assisted suicide "highlighted the importance of honoring patients' autonomy and noted that if physicians assist at birth, they should also have a role in assisting at death. A large number of commentators on both sides of the divide agreed on the importance of palliative care, including hospice, for helping terminally ill patients manage their symptoms, both physical and psychological." "The voting and commentary indicate that the way in which patients die and the role of palliative care will remain issues of much debate."