Two Misleading Myths Regarding “Medical Aid in Dying”

“Assisted Dying,” “Medical Aid in Dying” (MAID), “Physician Assisted Suicide”(PAS)—by whatever label we attach to it controversy continues to swirl around the practice of prescribing a lethal drug for a patient with a putatively terminal illness.1,2 (For now, let’s leave aside the point that physicians are notoriously bad in predicting when a patient will die, getting it wrong about 80% of the time and underestimating life expectancy in about 17% of cases.3)

To be clear: people of conscience, including many physicians, are sharply divided regarding whether, and under what conditions, MAID/PAS may be ethically justified—even when it is legal.4 The challenges of providing end-of-life care that preserves the patient’s humanity and minimizes pain and suffering are complex and daunting. We do not believe there are simple, universally applicable clinical or ethical options for addressing these challenges. However, in this essay, we argue that support for “assisted dying” as the preferred option is founded on numerous misconceptions regarding existing MAID/PAS statutes, among both the general public and many physicians. Here, we discuss two fundamental misconceptions: the myth of the patient’s autonomy, and the myth of the incurability of the patient’s illness.

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