Handbook for Mortals : Hastening Death : Distinguishing suicide from physician-assisted suicide


Suicide is taking your own life by your own hand and in your own way. You do not ask or expect others to help you.

Physician-assisted suicide

Physician-assisted suicide means that you ask a doctor to write a lethal prescription, which you will take. Without the doctor’s help, you cannot take your own life.


Euthanasia is the act of killing someone who otherwise would suffer terribly from an incurable disease. This is sometimes called "mercy killing."

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Handbook for Mortals book cover Copyright © 1999, 2006 by Joanne Lynn. This extract from the Handbook for Mortals by Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D. is used with permission. To learn more about improving care at the end of life visit the main web site for Americans for Better Care of the Dying.
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