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Euthanasia and assisted suicide: a physician’s and ethicist’s perspectives

Authors Boudreau JD, Somerville M

Received 10 April 2014

Accepted for publication 29 April 2014

Published 17 July 2014 Volume 2014:4 Pages 1—12

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/MB.S59303

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3


Video abstract presented by J Donald Boudreau and Margaret A Somerville.

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J Donald Boudreau,1 Margaret A Somerville2

1Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada; 2Faculty of Law, Faculty of Medicine, and Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada

Abstract: The debate on legalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide has a broad range of participants including physicians, scholars in ethics and health law, politicians, and the general public. It is conflictual, and despite its importance, participants are often poorly informed or confused. It is essential that health care practitioners are not among the latter. This review responds to the need for an up-to-date and comprehensive survey of salient ethical issues. Written in a narrative style, it is intended to impart basic information and review foundational principles helpful in ethical decision-making in relation to end-of-life medical care. The authors, a physician and an ethicist, provide complementary perspectives. They examine the standard arguments advanced by both proponents and opponents of legalizing euthanasia and note some recent legal developments in the matter. They consider an aspect of the debate often underappreciated; that is, the wider consequences that legalizing euthanasia might have on the medical profession, the institutions of law and medicine, and society as a whole. The line of argument that connects this narrative and supports their rejection of euthanasia is the belief that intentionally inflicting death on another human being is inherently wrong. Even if it were not, the risks and harms of legalizing euthanasia outweigh any benefits. Ethical alternatives to euthanasia are available, or should be, and euthanasia is absolutely incompatible with physicians' primary mandate of healing.

Keywords: euthanasia, physician assisted-suicide, healing, suffering, palliative care, palliative sedation

Corrigendum for this paper has been published

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