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Legalized Suicide May Bring Better Care to the Dying

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And the law does not provide the empowerment that dying patients seek, he says. Rather, it empowers physicians, setting a dangerous precedent where "we treat people differently, based on their illness. This law codifies inequitable treatment where those with a so-called terminal disease are offered a different solution: ending their life," he says.

According to Ganzini, people on both sides of the argument agree that assisted suicide is only a very small part of care for the dying. "Even with this law in place, assisted suicide accounts for only nine out of every 10,000 deaths in Oregon," she tells WebMD.

The message of the study, says Ganzini, "is that improvements in end-of-life care need to come not only from the medical profession, but from ... patients and families. People should understand the availability and benefits of hospice care ... during periods of severe illness."

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