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Br Med Bull. 2013;106:45-66. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldt010. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Euthanasia is not medical treatment.

Author information

1
Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, 1110 Pine Ave. West, Montreal, QC, Canada. donald.boudreau@mcgill.ca

Abstract

INTRODUCTION OR BACKGROUND:

The public assumes that if euthanasia and assisted suicide were to be legalized they would be carried out by physicians.

SOURCES OF DATA:

In furthering critical analysis, we supplement the discourse in the ethics and palliative care literature with that from medical education and evolving jurisprudence.

AREAS OF AGREEMENT:

Both proponents and opponents agree that the values of respect for human life and for individuals' autonomy are relevant to the debate.

AREAS OF CONTROVERSY:

Advocates of euthanasia and assisted suicide give priority to the right to personal autonomy and avoid discussions of harmful impacts of these practices on medicine, law and society. Opponents give priority to respect for life and identify such harmful effects. These both require euthanasia to remain legally prohibited.

GROWING POINTS:

Proposals are emerging that if society legalizes euthanasia it should not be mandated to physicians.

AREAS TIMELY FOR DEVELOPING RESEARCH:

The impact of characterizing euthanasia as 'medical treatment' on physicians' professional identity and on the institutions of medicine and law should be examined in jurisdictions where assisted suicide and euthanasia have been de-criminalized.

KEYWORDS:

assisted suicide; euthanasia; healing; medical legislation; palliative care; suffering

PMID:
23532778
DOI:
10.1093/bmb/ldt010
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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