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Failed Suicide Attempt in the Terminally Ill: Physician-Assisted Suicide 

Failed Suicide Attempt in the Terminally Ill: Physician-Assisted Suicide
Chapter:
Failed Suicide Attempt in the Terminally Ill: Physician-Assisted Suicide
Source:
Legal and Ethical Issues in Emergency Medicine
Author(s):

Kenneth V. Iserson

and Eileen F. Baker

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780190066420.003.0008

Emergency physicians may be faced with patients at the end of life who present with failed suicide attempts. This presents an ethical dilemma for both those in states where physician-assisted suicide is legal and those in states without such statutes. All 50 states have provisions for upholding the autonomy of competent patients to make decisions about end-of-life care. Three options are available to the emergency physician caring for a terminally ill patient with a failed suicide attempt: to assist a patient in completing an intended suicide (active euthanasia), to offer palliative care (passive euthanasia), or to override the patient’s wishes and provide life-saving treatment (standard treatment). When the patient’s wishes are clear, offering palliative treatment provides care in keeping with the patient’s desire to avoid pain and suffering. In situations in which questions exist regarding the patient’s wishes, a more conservative approach, aimed at stabilizing the patient, should be sought. Ethical and legal consultations are advised.

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