Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Deadly Business: MDs Report Experience With Assisted Suicide

WebMD Health News

Feb. 23, 2000 (Boston) -- Few inflammatory issues in medicine burn as intensely as the questions of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. But in a series of articles in the Feb. 24 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from Oregon, where physician-assisted suicide is legal, and from the Netherlands, where the practice is not legal but is accepted, attempt to balance the heat of debate with the dispassionate light of evidence.

"There is concern that with the legalization of assisted suicide, women, poor persons, and those who are members of ethnic or racial minority groups may request assistance with suicide because of inadequate social support or lack of access to health care," write Linda Ganzini, MD, and her colleagues in Oregon. However, "after two years of legally assisted suicide, we found little evidence that vulnerable groups have been given prescriptions for lethal medication in lieu of palliative care." Palliative care is care intended only to ease the severity of symptoms without curing the condition.

Physician-assisted suicide, by itself a hot button issue in medical ethics circles, is when a patient actively puts an end to his or her own life with the help of a physician. This help usually comes in the form of a prescription for a potentially fatal medication. Physician-assisted suicide therefore differs from euthanasia, which is when a person other than the patient intentionally puts the patient to death. Euthanasia is sometimes called "mercy killing" because patients put to death in this manner typically have an incurable or extremely painful disease.

Physicians in Oregon granted only one in six patient requests for a lethal prescription, and only one in 10 of such requests actually resulted in suicide. In all, 15% of eligible patients changed their minds about suicide, some because they found sufficient relief through pain control medications or other measures.

"As a researcher, at every point I've tried to have people who are both very opposed and very supportive of assisted suicide look at the survey and the results. Both sides were very relieved that physicians seemed to be operating in a responsible and very prudent manner," says Ganzini, director of geriatric psychiatry at the Portland VA Medical Center and associate professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health Sciences University, in an interview with WebMD. "Both sides were relieved that patients were getting palliative interventions and that it was working sometimes. So I think there is common ground there, and I think everybody should give a sigh of relief about that."

1 | 2 | 3

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing