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Why not physician-assisted death?*

Manthous, Constantine A. MD

doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31819622c8
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Objective: The Hippocratic Oath states “… I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath). Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are topics that engender a strong negative response on the part of many physicians and patients. This article explores contributions of religion, Western medical mores, law, and emerging concepts of moral neurocognition that may explain our inherent aversion to these ideas.

Sources: Religious texts, legal opinions, manifestos of medical ethics, medical literature, and lay literature.

Conclusion: Our collective repudiation of physician-assisted death, in all its forms, has complex origins that are not necessarily rational. If great care is taken to ensure that a request for physician-assisted death is persistent despite exhaustion of all available therapeutic modalities, then an argument can be made that our rejection constrains unnecessarily the liberty of a small number of patients.

From the Bridgeport Hospital and Yale University School of Medicine, Bridgeport, CT.

The author has not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

For information regarding this article, E-mail: pcmant@bpthosp.org

© 2009 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins