Ethics and the legalization of physician-assisted suicide: An American college of physicians position paper

Lois Snyder Sulmasy, Paul S. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations

Abstract

Calls to legalize physician-assisted suicide have increased and public interest in the subject has grown in recent years despite ethical prohibitions. Many people have concerns about how they will die and the emphasis by medicine and society on intervention and cure has sometimes come at the expense of good endof- life care. Some have advocated strongly, on the basis of autonomy, that physician-assisted suicide should be a legal option at the end of life. As a proponent of patient-centered care, the American College of Physicians (ACP) is attentive to all voices, including those who speak of the desire to control when and how life will end. However, the ACP believes that the ethical arguments against legalizing physician-assisted suicide remain the most compelling. On the basis of substantive ethics, clinical practice, policy, and other concerns articulated in this position paper, the ACP does not support legalization of physicianassisted suicide. It is problematic given the nature of the patient- physician relationship, affects trust in the relationship and in the profession, and fundamentally alters the medical profession's role in society. Furthermore, the principles at stake in this debate also underlie medicine's responsibilities regarding other issues and the physician's duties to provide care based on clinical judgment, evidence, and ethics. Society's focus at the end of life should be on efforts to address suffering and the needs of patients and families, including improving access to effective hospice and palliative care. The ACP remains committed to improving care for patients throughout and at the end of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)576-578
Number of pages3
JournalAnnals of internal medicine
Volume167
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 17 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine

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