Physician Resource Use and Willingness to Participate in Assisted Suicide
Sulmasy, Daniel P.
Linas, Benjamin P.
Gold, Karen F.
Schulman, Kevin A.
Archives of Internal Medicine. 1998 May 11; 158(9): 974-978.
OBJECTIVE: To explore the relationship between general internists' tendency to conserve medical resources and their willingness to participate in physician-assisted suicide (PAS). DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: Survey of a random sample of general internists in 6 urban areas of the United States. MEASUREMENTS: We assessed the physicians' use of medical resources by constructing a scale based on 6 hypothetical clinical scenarios in which respondents were given a choice between resource-intensive and resource-conserving options. We then presented a scenario of a competent terminally ill patient with breast cancer making stable and persistent requests for PAS. RESULTS: Sixty-seven (33%) of the 206 respondents indicated that they would participate in the suicide of the depicted patient. In a multivariate model, physicians who were more conservative with resources were 6.4 times more likely than their resource-intensive counterparts to prescribe the requested drugs (P = .02); minority physicians were less willing than whites to participate in PAS (odds ratio, 0.34; P = .03). Physicians' number of years in practice, location, sex, reported percentage of fee-for-service patients, and self-reported strength and direction of financial incentives in the respondents' practices were not associated with willingness to prescribe drugs for PAS. CONCLUSIONS: Most general internists, especially minority physicians, are personally reluctant to participate in PAS. While the characteristics of their practices do not affect PAS, physicians who tend to practice resource-conserving medicine are significantly more likely than their resource-intensive counterparts to provide a lethal prescription at the request of a terminally ill patient.
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