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Physician-assisted Suicide and the ICU

By Tinker Ready  
   February 02, 2017

The authors of a paper on the divisive issue of PAS disagree on many points, but are unified on one—doctors should not be required to participate.

As of the November election, five states and Washington D.C. have laws on the books allowing physician-assisted suicide. While it usually takes place outside the hospital setting, the practice is bound to find its way into intensive care units.

Intensivists will need to understand the new laws and be prepared to act in compliance with the law, the wishes of patients and families, their own views, and the policies of the organizations in which they are working.

In Colorado, some hospitals are refusing to allow the procedures in their facilities. According to a statement from SCL Health, the Denver-based Catholic health system: "Any of our patients wishing to request medical aid-in-dying medication will be offered an opportunity to transfer to another facility of the patient's choice."

While state legislatures continue to do their work, the debate among healthcare providers goes on.

The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) last week published a document spelling out two opposing positions on physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia.

The authors disagreed on many points, but were unified on one—doctors should not be required to participate in PAS: "Conscientious objections should be accommodated without unduly obstructing patient's access to medical interventions permitted by law."

Tinker Ready is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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