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Med Health Care Philos. 2010 Nov;13(4):403-11. doi: 10.1007/s11019-010-9274-z.

The irony of supporting physician-assisted suicide: a personal account.

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Department of Philosophy and Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities, University of Utah, CTIHB, 215 S. Central Campus Drive, Fourth Floor, Salt Lake City, UT 84103, USA


Under other circumstances, I would have written an academic paper rehearsing the arguments for and against legalization of physician-assisted suicide: autonomy and the avoidance of pain and suffering on the pro side, the wrongness of killing, the integrity of the medical profession, and the risk of abuse, the "slippery slope," on the con side. I've always supported the pro side. What this paper is, however, is a highly personal account of the challenges to my thinking about right-to-die issues. In November 2008, my husband suffered a C2/C3 spinal cord injury in a bicycle collision, leaving him ventilator-dependent, almost completely paralyzed, and in the hospital--but fully alert and profoundly self-reflective. What if he wanted to die? This paper draws from two multimedia presentations--file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE'S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune%20%7C%20Multimedia:%20Metamorphosis.webarchive and file:///Users/margaretbattin/Documents/BROOKE'S%20ACCIDENT/The%20Salt%20Lake%20Tribune%20%7C%20Multimedia:%20Learning%20to%20live%20again.webarchive--and personal material concerning quality of life (he'd rank at the bottom on the SF-36 and similar scales) and concerning autonomy (his own accounts, verbatim). This is a detailed portrait of a man whose life involves extraordinary suffering but also luminous experience some of the time. It only makes the question harder: What if he wanted to die?

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