Contrary to arguments by critics, a University of Utah-led study found that legalizing physician-assisted suicide in Oregon and the Netherlands did not result in a disproportionate number of deaths among the elderly, poor, women, minorities, uninsured, minors, chronically ill, less educated or psychiatric patients.
Of 10 vulnerable groups examined in the study, only AIDS patients used doctor-assisted suicide at elevated rates.
Fears about the impact on vulnerable people have dominated debate about physician-assisted suicide. We find no evidence to support those fears where this practice already is legal, says the studys lead author, bioethicist Margaret Battin, a University of Utah distinguished professor of philosophy and adjunct professor of internal medicine.
The study will be published in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. Battin conducted the research with public health physician Agnes van der Heide, of Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam; psychiatrist Linda Ganzini at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland; and physician Gerrit van der Wal and health scientist Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen, of the VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam. Van der Wal currently is inspector general of The Netherlands Health Care Inspectorate, which advises that nations health minister.
The research deals with the so-called slippery slope argument that has been made by critics of doctor-assisted suicide and has raised concern even among proponents. The argument is that by making it legal for medical doctors to help certain patients end their lives, vulnerable people will die in disproportionately large numbers.
Would these patients be pressured, manipulated or forced to request or accept physician-assisted dying by overburdened family members, callous physicians, or institutions or insurers concerned about their own profits" the researchers asked.
The American College of Physicians said in
|Contact: Lee Siegel|
University of Utah