Given that the currently underground practice of physician-assisted suicide is a threat to the lives of our patients and given that the rhetoric of the movement—such as the myth that, as a suicidal woman, Martha Wichorek, put it, there is a stage of life called “miserable existence,” when you cannot do anything for yourself or others (Kaplan & Leonhardi, 2000, p. 268)—is a threat to the psychological health of the general public, one might expect that the mental health professions would display a strong negative reaction to physician-assisted suicide.
Society has not called upon the mental health professions to handle this matter except in a very limited and extremely frustrating way. We are not being asked whether it is true that there is a stage of life that is purely miserable. We are not being asked how to enhance the lives of the physically ill or the cognitively impaired. We are not being asked to do more for the untreated mentally ill. We are asked, instead, to relieve the guilt of society by giving them the assurance that we have identified certain limited categories of patients who will not be permitted to make end-of-life decisions because their judgment is impaired by mental illness. We certainly might expect our professions to protest this situation.
However, it turns out that substantial numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists are in favor of physician-assisted suicide. Of Oregon psychiatrists, 56% favored the law in Oregon permitting physician-assisted suicide (Ganzini, Fenn, Lee, Heintz, & Bloom, 1996). Of Oregon psychologists, 78% favored it (Fenn & Ganzini, 1999). Given this support for physician-assisted suicide by mental