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 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 love and care for us and meet our basic needs. It is at the end of this continuum when our bodies fade and our life energy shrinks and 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 the priority.
There are currently nine 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.