Protecting Psychiatric Patients and Others from the Assisted-Suicide Movement: Insights and Strategies

By Barbara A. Olevitch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2

Would Physician-Assisted Suicide Lead to Euthanasia?

There has been considerable controversy about the question of whether physician-assisted suicide would lead to euthanasia.

Before defining the differences between physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia and categorizing different kinds of euthanasia so that the reader will be equipped to analyze the issues that he or she encounters in such discussions, I want to first give the reader some perspective on this whole question that I believe will make these discussions more fruitful.

Many opponents of physician-assisted suicide are against physician-assisted suicide because they are concerned about euthanasia. When advocates of physician-assisted suicide say “physician-assisted suicide will not lead to euthanasia,” opponents might be mistakenly reassured because they interpret this statement to mean, “there will not be euthanasia.” However, if we examine what is really happening both in the Netherlands and here in the United States, a different meaning to the statement “physician-assisted suicide will not lead to euthanasia” emerges.

Unfortunately, as will become clear in this chapter, many kinds of medical decisions that could easily be called euthanasia are already going on. It is too late to worry that physician-assisted suicide will lead to euthanasia, even in the United States.

Nevertheless, as I hope to show in this chapter, it is still important for opponents of euthanasia to oppose physician-assisted suicide. Blocking physicianassisted suicide would not be sufficient to eliminate the deliberate ending of

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