Redefining physicians' role in assisted dying.

Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Division of Medical Ethics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.
New England Journal of Medicine (Impact Factor: 54.42). 07/2012; 367(2):97-9. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1205283
Source: PubMed
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction or backgroundThe public assumes that if euthanasia and assisted suicide were to be legalized they would be carried out by physicians.Sources of dataIn furthering critical analysis, we supplement the discourse in the ethics and palliative care literature with that from medical education and evolving jurisprudence.Areas of agreementBoth proponents and opponents agree that the values of respect for human life and for individuals' autonomy are relevant to the debate.Areas of controversyAdvocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide give priority to the right to personal autonomy and avoid discussions of harmful impacts of these practices on medicine, law and society. Opponents give priority to respect for life and identify such harmful effects. These both require euthanasia to remain legally prohibited.Growing pointsProposals are emerging that if society legalizes euthanasia it should not be mandated to physicians.Areas timely for developing researchThe impact of characterizing euthanasia as 'medical treatment' on physicians' professional identity and on the institutions of medicine and law should be examined in jurisdictions where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been de-criminalized.
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May 15, 2014