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physician-assisted death

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Physician-assisted death is a controversial topic that is centered on the ability of a person with an end-stage, terminal illness to request medications from their doctor that would enable the end of their life. There are many terms associated with this topic, including “medical-assisted death,” “assisted suicide,” “aid in dying,” and “death with dignity.” “Physician-assisted death/dying” and “medical-assisted death” are the clearest terms and more descriptive than a phrase like “aid in dying.” 

Physician-assisted death is a type of euthanasia (which broadly refers to the practice of ending a patient’s life to limit suffering), though “physician-assisted” should be specified when discussing existing laws, which center on the ability of a person to request this end-of-life option rather than it being chosen for them. The term “death with dignity” is the term used by the nonprofit organization Death with Dignity, which lobbies for legislation allowing physician-assisted death and should generally be avoided outside of direct quotes. Using the term “suicide” when discussing this topic can be misleading.

Objections to the practice range from religious tenets to the belief that it violates physicians’ integrity. Use extra care with terminology, as some phrases can unintentionally serve to reinforce or counter a particular side’s viewpoint.

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