Physician-Assisted Suicide: Reflections on Oregon's First Case
Issues in Law and Medicine. 1998 Winter; 14(3): 243-270.
The authors analyze Oregon's first reported assisted suicide of Mrs. A as a real life application of the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. They critique the effectiveness of the Act's safeguards as illustrated by the case of Mrs. A. They point out that the Act does not require that physicians be adequately trained in palliative care in order to participate in assisted suicide. Most physicians do not have such training. Without it, they are not able to effectively present alternatives to patients requesting assisted suicide. Most physicians also lack the expertise to assess patients' decision-making capacity. Nor does the Act ensure that physicians will be in a position to assess coercion of patients' decisions. The Act requires physicians to report only minimal information about their cases, and there are no enforcement provisions to see that even this is done. Under the Act, a good faith standard rather than the more usual negligence standard immunizes physicians from civil or criminal liability even when they act negligently. The authors demonstrate that the Act protects physicians more than patients, and encourages secrecy. The authors conclude that secrecy will need to be replaced by openness to permit the kind of examination the practice of assisted suicide warrants.
Accountability; Alternatives; Assisted Suicide; Case Studies; Coercion; Compassion; Competence; Confidentiality; Counseling; Consent; Consultation; Death; Depressive Disorder; Diagnosis; Disclosure; Drugs; Evaluation; Family Members; Forms; Government; Government Regulation; Guideline Adherence; Guidelines; Health; Health Care; Hospices; Information Dissemination; Informed Consent; Legal Aspects; Legislation; Life; Liability; Mandatory Reporting; Motivation; Negligence; Palliative Care; Patients; Physicians; Privacy; Professional Competence; Prognosis; Psychiatric Diagnosis; Records; Regulation; Reporting; State Government; Suicide; Terminal Care; Terminally Ill; Uncertainty;
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