Physician Assisted Death
“We want to retain the autonomy – the freedom – to be the authors of our own lives. This is the very marrow of being human.”
Ronald Dworkin, philosopher and scholar of US constitutional law.
Physician assisted death (PAD) is the voluntary termination of one’s own life
by self administration of a lethal substance (or combination of medications),
with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician. It is the practice of
providing a competent patient with a prescription for medication for the
patient to use with the primary intention of ending his or her own life. It is
also referred to as physician assisted suicide or death with dignity
As hospice nurses working in Oregon, the first state to legalize PAD, we have
had the honor of witnessing many patients exercise their personal choice and
legal right to end their life with the assistance of medication. General belief
for this choice is that palliation or treatment of symptoms causing suffering
has failed, but in our experience this is not the reason they reach for this
option. In the circle of life we gladly accept that as infants and children we
are dependent on others to care for us and meet our basic needs. It is at the
end of this continuum when our body energies fade, we once again become
dependent on others. This is more often the reason patients choose PAD. The
wish to avoid dependence upon others and ultimately retain final control of
their life is their priority.
There are currently eleven states that have legalized PAD. You may search
the Web for your State’s law regarding its use. There are numerous entries
with discussions regarding the moral and ethical ramifications of these laws.