Caring for the Dying

Would better palliative care reduce support for assisted suicide?


Oregon is the only state where physician-assisted suicide is legal. By many accounts, it is also a national leader in “palliative care,” as non-invasive medical treatment of the dying is often called. Both approaches to terminal illness will be debated in depth as Oregonians prepare to vote Nov. 4 on whether to repeal the “death with dignity” law they narrowly approved in 1994. Pro-repeal forces claim support for assisted suicide would evaporate if palliative care and effective pain control became more widely available. The law's supporters say they also endorse palliative care. At the same time, they contend that doctor-aided suicide should remain a legal option for the small minority of terminally ill people whose intractable pain does not respond to opioids such as morphine.

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