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The Boston Declaration on Assisted Dying

The following Declaration was made at the 13th International Conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies held in Boston, Massachussetts from September 1 to 3, 2000.

We are healthcare professionals attending the biennial conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies being held in Boston from 1-3 September 2000.

We support the right of competent adults who are suffering severe and enduring distress from terminal illnesses, to seek medical assistance to hasten dying if this is their voluntary, rational and persistent request, after other relevant options, offered by palliative medicine, have been fully explored.

On this occasion, we wish to draw public attention to the practice of “terminal sedation” or “slow euthanasia” which is performed extensively today throughout the world in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and in private homes. This is carried out under the doctrine known as “double effect” by which a physician may lawfully administer increasing dosages of regular analgesic and sedative drugs that can hasten someoneÕs death as long as the declared intention is to ease pain and suffering. Of course, the key word is “intention”. Compassionate physicians, without publicly declaring the true intention of their actions, often speed up the dying process in this way. Many thousands of terminally-ill patients are so helped globally every year.

We feel that the only real difference between “terminal sedation” and a rapidly effective lethal dose is one of time, a slow death, over a few days, with life-shortening palliative drugs versus a more dignified and peaceful death, because it is not prolonged, and is determined by the patient. We urge other medical professionals, worldwide, to be more open about this form of physician-assisted dying.

Signed by health professionals in Boston at the World Conference on Assisted Dying, September 3, 2000:

Pieter Admiraal, M.D., physician, The Netherlands
Margereta Appel, nurse, Sweden
Michio Arakawa, M.D., physician, Japan
Patricia Baker, nurse, USA
Edward Beck, pharmacist, USA
Doloros Bicek, nurse, USA
Szari Bourque, L.M.S.W., USA
Nanoek Bos, nurse, The Netherlands
Ann Bruner, social worker, USA
Joan Caplan, clinical social worker, USA
Harriet Carroll, nurse, USA
Angela Cheater, researcher, Zimbabwe
Ellen Crowley, social worker, USA
Judy Dent, medical technologist, Australia
Lois Diffrient, arts therapist, USA
Rudolf W. Dunn, M.D., physician, Canada
Lawrence D. Egbert, M.D., M.P.H., anesthesiologist, USA
Jan Loeb Eisler, ICU nursing professional, USA
Kenneth R Haslam, M.D., anesthesiologist, USA
Val Hilton, nursing professional, USA
Michael Irwin, M.D., physician, United Kingdom
Stephen Jamison, psychologist, USA
Sobel Jerome, M.D., surgeon, USA
Rob Jonquiere, M.D., family physician, The Netherlands
Cynthia R. Kerkhoff, social worker, USA
Sibyl K. Levin, occupational therapist, USA
Norman A. Levy, M.D., physician, USA
Nancy Livermore, M.S.W., USA
Peggy Lovett, clergy, USA
Richard MacDonald, M.D., physician, USA
Richard E. Madden, social worker, USA
Philip Nitschke, M.D., physician, Australia,
Clarke Miller, nursing home administrator, USA
Henry Miller, D.D.S., USA
Theresa B. Nieves, counselor, USA
Donald Pederson, M.D., anesthesiologist, USA
Wilburg Pokorny, M.D., family physician, USA
Frank Press, science policy, former president, National Academy of Sciences, USA.
Margaret Rappaport, M.D., physician, USA
Kathleen M. Reding, professor, USA
Robert Russell, nurse, USA
Karen Sanders, nurse, lecturer, health care & ethics, United Kingdom
Elliott A. Schaffzin, M.D., physician, USA
Evalyn Segal, psychologist, USA
Marcella Sheperd, nurse, USA
Aycke Smook, M.D., physician, surgeon oncologist, The Netherlands
John Spangler, M.D., Obstetrics/Gynocology, USA
Al Sundquist, patient support volunteer, USA
Rodney Syme, M.D., physician, urologist, Australia
Eleanor M. van der Voort, nurse, USA
N Conant Weiss, M.D., physician, USA
Burton Weissberger, USA
Libby Wilson, M.D., physician, United Kingdom