The United States is conducting a national experiment with assisted suicide. At
least one state has legalized it—Oregon [Egan, T.
In Oregon, Opening a New
Front in the World of Medicine. New York Times. November 6,
1997;A26.]—albeit with substantial restrictions, and several others have
specifically banned it. Some ethicists and law professors favor a right to
assisted suicide as an extension of a patient’s right to control their own
medical care. [Baron, CH. Pleading for physician-assisted suicide in the courts,
W N Eng Law Rev. 1997;19:371.] Many others oppose it on philosophical
grounds in the individual case and as a dangerous slippery slope issue for
society. [Kamisar, Y. The “right to die”: on drawing (and erasing) lines.
Duquesne Law Rev. 1996;35:481; Arras, J. Physician-assisted suicide: a tragic
view. J Contemp Health Law Policy. 1997;361. Brody, H. Compassion in Dying
v. Washington: promoting dangerous myths in terminal care.
1996; (special section): S-154; Burt, R. Constitutionalizing physician-assisted
suicide: will lightning strike thrice? Duquesne Law Rev. 1996;35:159; Capron,
AM. Liberty, equality, death! Hastings Cent Rep. May/June 1996;23.] Given the
pressures to cut costs in medical care, and the substantial savings that an
early suicide of a patient with a serious illness can bring, it is inevitable that
physicians will be pressured to recommend suicide, both by family members
and by insurers.