Assisted Suicide

May 17, 2013 • Volume 23, Issue 19
Should doctors be allowed to help terminally ill patients die?
By Reed Karaim


Vermont nurse Lynne Caulfield, whose husband Jack died of cancer, opposes physician-assisted suicide (AP Photo/Jason R. Henske)
Vermont nurse Lynne Caulfield, whose husband Jack (pictured) died of cancer, opposes physician-assisted suicide. “It is a sad day when our lawyers are asking health care professionals to help [people] die rather than extending compassionate care to ease pain and suffering,” she told state lawmakers, who approved the procedure on May 13. (AP Photo/Jason R. Henske)

Decisions about sustaining life, allowing it to end or even hastening death are among the most difficult choices terminally ill patients and their families can face. Such decisions also are at the heart of a debate about what is commonly called “physician-assisted suicide” — or “aid-in-dying” by supporters. Oregon and Washington — and now likely Vermont — allow physicians to write a prescription for lethal drugs if requested by someone who is terminally ill and mentally competent. A Montana court also has allowed the procedure. Supporters of assisted suicide say it allows the terminally ill to avoid unnecessary suffering and meet death on their own terms, and they say safeguards in the laws prevent abuse of the procedure. But opponents say assisted suicide devalues life, opens patients to exploitation by relatives or others and could lead to widespread euthanasia of the sick and vulnerable.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Human Rights
Nov. 01, 2013  Religious Repression
May 17, 2013  Assisted Suicide
Oct. 16, 2012  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Sep. 20, 2011  Saving Indigenous Peoples
Oct. 30, 2009  Human Rights Issues
Jul. 25, 2008  Human Rights in China
Mar. 26, 2004  Human Trafficking and Slavery
Apr. 30, 1999  Women and Human Rights
Nov. 13, 1998  Human Rights
Jul. 19, 1985  Human Rights in the 1980s
May 18, 1979  Human Rights Policy
Apr. 03, 1968  Human Rights Protection
Mar. 21, 1956  Forced Labor and Slavery
Apr. 27, 1949  Forced Labor
Jan. 25, 1945  Bills of Rights
Domestic Issues
Medical Research and Advocacy
Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities
Right to Die