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Massachusetts Medical Society




For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway's novel about the Spanish Civil War, ends with its American hero, Robert Jordan, mortally wounded and trying to decide whether to commit suicide with a machine gun or risk capture by trying to retain consciousness long enough to cover the retreat of his comrades. Confronting his impending death, Jordan thinks, “Dying is only bad when it takes a long time and hurts so much that it humiliates you.” Hemingway, one of the most American of American writers, committed suicide with a shotgun. Most suicides in the United States are committed with guns, but this country has no monopoly on suicide. Only in the United States, however, have groups of physicians gone to court to argue that suicide by drug overdose in the context of a doctor–patient relationship should have the status of a constitutional right.


From The New England Journal of Medicine, George J. Annas, The Bell Tolls for a Constitutional Right to Physician-Assisted Suicide, Volume 337, Page 1098 Copyright ©(1997) Massachusetts Medical Society. Reprinted with permission.

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