Requests for physician-assisted suicide are not a new phenomenon, and
many physicians are likely to face this challenging situation. This article
proposes for professionals an 8-step approach to respond to requests for physician-assisted
suicide. The approach seeks to identify and treat the root causes of the request
and aims to present a plan for consistent application of a set of clinical
skills. Justification for the steps requires only 2 noncontentious principles:
the patient should be free of unwanted intervention, and the physician is
obligated to provide suffering patients with comfort care. Care based on these
2 principles alone does not include physician-assisted suicide. The approach
does, however, justify patient refusal of oral intake in specific circumstances.
The approach could resolve a majority of requests for physician-assisted suicide
and should be tested further for clinical efficacy.
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