AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 5

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Case 5.2: Physician Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia—Mrs. Scott's Plan for the Future

Option Comparison

Because physician-assisted suicide is not supported by the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics, prescribing barbiturates for Mrs. Scott as in option A should be avoided. Nonetheless, Mrs. Scott is suffering and in need of medical care, so, in the absence of independent reasons, referring her to another physician, option C, should also be avoided.

There is still a great deal that medicine can do for Mrs. Scott. Hence, Dr. Lee should not abandon this patient and should attempt to treat her pain effectively, as stated in option B. Option D—recommending that Mrs. Scott see a counselor—is acceptable, but the need for this action will be clearer after her pain is under better control and Dr. Lee learns more about her illness and state of mind.

Preferable: Option B

Acceptable: Option D

Avoid: Options A and C

Additional discussion and information

The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.