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Massachusetts Medical Society




Society and physicians in the United States remain unable to accept death and thus unable to deal with the physical, psychological, and spiritual approach of death. The hour of death itself “is commonly tranquil,” but “the serenity is usually bought at a fearful price -- and the price is the process by which we reach that point” -- a process that has been described as “a purgatory that may last for weeks.” Suicide has been seen as a rational way to avoid that purgatory, especially as a response to end-stage cancer and AIDS, and proposals to “legalize” physician-assisted suicide in well-defined cases have persisted. Such proposals have been the subject of reports by commissions in New York and Michigan, and court decisions on the constitutionality of laws against assisted suicide, as they apply to physicians and their terminally ill patients, are currently on appeal in the states of Washington and Michigan.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, Death by Prescription, Volume 331, Page 1240 Copyright ©(1994) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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