Lynell Davis, Esq. and Dr. Melis Alkin are in the second year of the Master’s in Bioethics program. In October they will be presenting at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) on the following bioethical issue:
Ethical and Legal Issues for Psychologists Involved in Physician Assisted Suicide
Physician assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and five states in the United States (Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and California). Since the state of Oregon legalized physician assisted suicide (PAS) in 1997, there has been much heated debate about this complex issue both within the public and within health care professionals alike. For example, American Medical Association (1996) opposes PAS stating that allowing physicians to prescribe and provide information to end a person’s life is harmful, in conflict with the physician’s role as healer. On the other hand, American Psychological Association has declared a neutral position on PAS. Although psychologists hold an important role in contributing to palliative care policy issues through clinical practice, empirical research, and public policy, psychology as a discipline has not adequately addressed psychologists’ role and the profession’s unique ethical and legal challenges in regards to PAS. The goal of this presentation is to review the literature on psychologists’ role in physician assisted suicide and discuss the findings in relation to relevant bioethical issues and relevant legal acts.