Physician assisted suicide and why patients are motivated to seek death

Patients motivated to seek a doctor for their death wish did so after a deliberative and thoughtful process rather than on impulse, according to a research study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine . The study involved 35 cases in which patients considered physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and presents data which until now has been very limited.

Through interviews with these patients and their family members, researchers worked to obtain detailed information regarding their thought processes, motivations, and experiences. It was discovered that patients in this study were motivated to engage in PAS due to three types of issues: illness-related experience (fatigue, functional loss, or discomfort), loss of sense of self or identity, and fears about the future (deterioration).

None of the patients seemed to be seriously depressed when they planned the assisted suicide. The motivations expressed are similar to those of other patients who decline life-sustaining treatment.

“The motivations for physician-assisted suicide identify issues for physicians to explore with patients who have chronic illness and life-shortening disease,” states Robert A. Pearlman, lead author of the study. “These findings can help health care providers remember to address the far reaching effects of the illness, including the quality of the dying experience with their patients.”

Physician-assisted suicide, where doctors prescribe medications to patients for them to self-administer to cause death and end suffering, is widely practiced throughout the United States but currently only authorized in the state of Oregon for terminally ill patients.


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