Handbook for Mortals : Hastening Death : Arguments supporting physician-assisted suicide

Supporters of physician-assisted suicide believe that this is fundamentally an individual choice, and one that should not be limited by laws. They believe that individuals have the right to make life-and-death decisions for themselves without government interference.

Supporters of legalization are responding to the fear of being in terrible pain and agony, of being hooked up to life-support equipment, and of becoming a financial or emotional drain on their families. They fear becoming dependent on others or having a very poor quality of life. Sadly, our current health care system and its practices leave people suffering unreasonably and unnecessarily at the end of life. Too often, people suffer from avoidable pain and other symptoms in their final days. And such suffering can occur even with good care. People advocate for more reliable physician-assisted suicide to guard against these possibilities.

Sometimes just having a means to suicide limits anxiety and allows the patient to enjoy life more fully. And making physician assistance legal might make it easier to monitor and regulate.

Of course, dying people and their families have every reason to consider the policy questions of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. However, most are constrained to live within the law as it now.

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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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