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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: James F. Bresnahan, SJ, JD, LLM, PhD (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine)
Description: This book mobilizes the varied expertise of seven authors, some more well known than others, to examine in six chapters the moral, legal, psychological, and sociological dimensions of the currently debated issue of physician involvement in actively helping a patient who requests to die, whether by helping the patient to inflict death on self or by doing this for the patient.
Purpose: The purpose is to survey and interpret critically the extensive literature that has developed about this debated issue.
Audience: Although it aims to help persons active in health care to obtain an overview of the debate, it also seems to aim at a wider public as well.
Features: The essays do provide a wide examination of the literature. This collection surveys some viewpoints on the debated issue as these were developed prior to the successful passage of the Oregon initiative legalizing physician-assisted dying in November 1994.
Assessment: The overall impact of the collection is to engender support of such initiatives. The general thrust of several of the essays is to support "physician-assisted dying" and to reject completely the opposite view. Two essays present arguments on both sides more dispassionately. No essay examines fully the hospice experience with care of the dying or discusses the probable negative impact on further development and financing of hospice if legal permission is given to physician-assisted dying. Nor are the developing constraints of managed care on the capacity of physicians to carefully determine the rationality of the requests to be helped to die discussed.