Date of Award
Medical Doctor (MD)
Lydia S. Dugdale
A REPORT OF US PHYSICIANS’ BELIEFS ABOUT PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE AND A BIOETHICAL ANALYSIS OF THE PRACTICE.
Peter T. Hetzler III, James Nie, Amanda Zhou, and Lydia S. Dugdale. Department of Internal Medicine, Yale University, School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
The goals of this work were two fold. The first was to assess the beliefs of US physicians about the national legalization of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The second was to determine the moral permissibility of PAS through a bioethical analysis. For the former, we sent a survey to 1000 randomly chosen physicians from around the US. For the last, we analyzed the permissibility of PAS by examining four common bioethical considerations—role morality, the “slippery slope”, doing vs. allowing, and intending vs. foreseeing.
Our survey indicates that 60% of physicians thought PAS should be legal, and of that 60%, 13% answered “yes” when asked if they would perform the practice if it were legal. Next, 49% of physicians agreed that most patients who seek PAS do so because of pain, and 58% agreed that the current safeguards in place for PAS, in general, are adequate to protect patients. With respect to specific safeguards, 60 % disagreed with the statement that physicians who are not psychiatrists are adequately trained to screen for depression in patients seeking PAS, and 60% disagreed with the idea that physicians can predict with certainty whether a patient seeking PAS has 6 months or less to live. Finally, about one-third (30%) of physicians thought that the legalization of PAS would lead to the legalization of euthanasia, and 46% agreed that insurance companies would preferentially cover PAS over possible life-saving treatments if PAS was legalized nationally. Finally, by examining the bioethical arguments mentioned with respect to PAS, we determined that the practice is not morally permissible
Our survey results suggest several important conclusions about physicians’ beliefs of PAS. The first is that there is a discrepancy between belief and practice of PAS. Second, physicians are generally misinformed as to why patients seek PAS, and they are uncertain about the adequacy of safeguards. Third, physicians are still wary of the slippery slope with respect to PAS legalization nationwide. Furthermore, through our bioethical analysis, we show that PAS is morally impermissible.
Hetzler, Peter Theodore, "A Report Of Us Physicians’ Beliefs About Physician-Assisted Suicide And A Bioethical Analysis Of The Practice" (2019). Yale Medicine Thesis Digital Library. 3502.