Two new surveys -- one polling cancer specialists, the other polling their patients -- shed new light on the realities of dying and assisted suicide. The physicians' survey suggests a sharp drop in support for doctor-assisted suicide since 1994. The largest survey ever of cancer specialists in the English-speaking world, polling 3200 oncologists in the U.S., Britain and Canada, was released May 16. Among the findings:
* 22% of oncologists support physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in unremitting pain. A similar question had garnered 45% support from U.S. oncologists in 1994.
* 13% of oncologists said they had ever performed assisted suicide or euthanasia (with 4% performing one or both in the past year), and 64% said they had received requests for them. A recent survey published in the New England Journal of Medicine, polling physicians from a wider variety of specialties, showed 18% having received a request for assisted suicide and 11% having received one for euthanasia, with 6% having engaged in either or both.
* 56% of U.S. oncologists report difficulty in obtaining palliative care consultations for their dying patients. 40% find lack of insurance coverage for unskilled home care services to be the most troublesome problem in access to palliative care, and 31% find it a frequent problem. Doctors citing such problems are more likely to have performed euthanasia or assisted suicide in the past year.
* 95% of oncologists feel competent to manage pain; yet more than half report that over 20% of their patients die in pain, and responses to a case study presented in the survey suggest that 25% do not provide optimal pain manage...
... middle of paper ...
...ternal Medicine 2240 (Oct. 28, 1996)
Lee v. Oregon, 891 F.Supp. 1429 (D. Or. 1995), vacated on other grounds, 107 F.3d 1382 (9th Cir. 1997), cert. denied, 118 S. Ct. 328 (1997).
Manning, Michael,M.D. Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide. New York: Paulist Press, 1998.
"Poll Shows More Would Support Law Using Gentler Language," TimeLines (Jan.-Feb. 1994):9
Rachels, James. "Passive and Active Euthanasia Are Equally Acceptable." Euthanasia. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1989.
Washington v. Glucksberg, 117 S. Ct. 2258, 2262 n. 7 (1997.
-- -- --. 117 S. Ct. at 2272, quoting United States v. Rutherford, 442 U.S. 544, 558. 1979.
Washington Post, April 4, 1996.
Wennberg, Robert. Terminal Choices: Euthanasia, Suicide, and the Right to Die. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1990.
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