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A number of common and generally noncontroversial practices in the care of patients at the end of life lead to their deaths. For example, physicians honor a patient's refusal of medical intervention even when doing so leads to the patient's death. Similarly, with a patient's or surrogate's consent, physicians administer sedatives in order to relieve pain and distress at the end of life, even when it is known that doing so will cause the patient's death. In contemporary U.S. public policy, these practices are accepted as ethical and legal while physician-assisted suicide (PAS) is—for the most part—rejected in current U.S. law and public policy. Some think, however, that if one accepts practices that are known to lead to a patient's death, then one cannot reasonably reject a patient's request for a lethal dose of medication so that she may kill herself (PAS).


Article published in Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 7, 1998, pp. 373-379.