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NEJM article on physicians role in assisted dying

The New England Journal of Medicine (July 2012; 367:97-99) published an interesting article about the role of physicians in the process of assisted dying. Authors Prokopetz and Lehmann from Boston, USA address the issue of potential abuses and patient safety. Their conclusion is that many medical professionals are uncomfortable with the idea of physicians playing an active role in ending patients’ lives. This hesitation is of course damaging when looking at patient autonomy, but in their opinion not insurmountable. 

“Critics have voiced six primary objections to legalizing assisted dying, the first four of which have been
largely invalidated by 13 years of data from Oregon”, they say, summarixing these six as:

  • it will worsen the quality of Palliative Care
  • there wil be discrimination of vulnerable groups
  • non-voluntary assisstance
  • abuse (through coercion, etc.)
  • undermining sanctity of life (a subjective moral, mostly religious question)
  • it is inappropriate (or even wrong) for physicians to be involved in ending lifes.

They conclude that “there is a compeling case for legalizing assisted dying, but assisted
dying need not be physician assisted”.

Read the article here.