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We can’t live forever. If we plan ahead, we can take advantage of all the options available to us regarding end of life decisions. 


The discussions about having the legal option of voluntarily taking a doctor-prescribed lethal dose of medication use a variety of terms: "death with dignity," "physician assisted suicide," "aid in dying," physician assisted aid in dying," "voluntary euthanasia." The term "death with dignity" is associated with the Oregon law that was the first in the US to permit a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose upon the request of a patient who had less than six months to live.  The ethics, moral questions, and issues of respect, autonomy, beneficence, and justice in relation to end of life decisions are all discussed in the blogs.

Why have the option of taking a lethal dose?

There are several good reasons!

Doctors, nurses, and chaplains know from experience that some fatal illnesses cause more pain and suffering than others and that some fatal illnesses take far longer to kill patients than others.  Each dying person should have the right to say when he or she has had enough pain and suffering.  Current state laws allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose for terminally ill patients at a patient’s request all stipulate that life insurance policies must pay the same death benefit that they would have if the fatal illness had run its natural course.  In states without the option of a dying patient having legal access to a lethal dose, suicide is often the only way for a patient to end intolerable suffering.  So, in addition to losing a loved one to suicide and having to face the trauma of finding the body, in states without such laws, the family also usually loses any death benefit from life insurance policies. 

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