Tuesday, April 25, 2006

JAMA on physician assisted suicide

The current JAMA has a commentary on the legality of physician assisted suicide by Lawrence Gostin JD, particularly focusing on the Gonzales v. Oregon decision. (Previous posts on PAS are here, here, here, and here.) I can't say it adds more to the discussion than the NEJM article from a while back. Nevertheless it ends with this remarkable, and greatly appreciated, paragraph:
In many ways, discussion of physician-assisted suicide masks a far more important problem—the need to reliably and safely achieve effective relief of pain and suffering near the end of life. Multiple forces have stood in the way of effective palliative care such as physician training (stressing intervention over palliation), a rescue imperative, and the burgeoning development and promotion of life-saving technologies. Physicians have also feared criminal or civil liability for hastening a patient's death. Commenting on Gonzales v Oregon, President George W. Bush expressed disappointment at the erosion of a "culture of life." However, deep caring and relief of suffering by physicians at the bedside of dying patients may be a far greater affirmation of life. Modern medicine must evolve to constructively support patients in the dying process—a time of incomparable meaning and importance to the human condition.

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