HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, October 29, 2012

Physician Aid in Dying

While It is not surprising to see Ezekiel Emanuel reject physician aid in dying (which he and others describe as physician-assisted suicide), it is surprising to see some of his arguments. For example, he argues that a right to assisted suicide lacks mass appeal because only a fraction of people actually exercise the right in Oregon or other countries where it is legal. But the benefits of a right to aid in dying extend far beyond those who exercise it or seriously consider it during their dying process. For anyone who develops a serious illness and worries that suffering might become intolerable at some point, a right to aid in dying can provide important reassurance.

Emanuel also worries that the poor and poorly educated dying patient will be abused by a right to aid in dying. But the evidence from Oregon after about 15 years of aid in dying does not indicate abuse of vulnerable populations. Indeed, the risk of abuse is far greater from a right to have life-sustaining treatment, which can be exercised by others on behalf of mentally incapacitated patients, than from a right to aid in dying, which must be exercised by competent patients.


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