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Physician-Assisted Death

Table of Contents

Treatment Overview

Physician-assisted death is a practice by which doctors provide the means for a person with a terminal illness to voluntarily cause their own death. In most cases, the doctor prescribes lethal doses of medicine.

The doctor indirectly takes part in the person's death. But the doctor does not directly cause the death. Only a few states, such as California and Washington, have legalized physician-assisted death.

Why It Is Done

There are many reasons that a person who has a terminal illness may think about ending their life.

A person who is dying may worry about not having control over their fate or how they die. They may also worry about being helpless or a burden to others. They may not realize that loved ones want to provide care. For them, it may be a way to express their love and may be part of their own healthy grieving.

Sometimes when a person with a terminal illness thinks about physician-assisted death, their symptoms are not being managed well. But symptoms like pain and depression can be managed. Talk to your health professional and family about your symptoms. This is even more important if your symptoms bother you so much that you're thinking about ending your life.

Credits for Physician-Assisted Death

Current as of: October 18, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Jean S. Kutner MD, MSPH - Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine


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