Oregon physicians' perceptions of patients who request assisted suicide and their families

Linda Ganzini, Steven K. Dobscha, Ronald T. Heintz, Nancy Press

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


In 1997, the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was enacted, allowing a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication for a competent, terminally ill patient who requests one. In 2000, we conducted single, semistructured, in-depth, face-to-face interviews with 35 Oregon physicians who received a request for a lethal prescription. The interviews focused on physicians' perceptions of patients who requested assisted suicide, the reasons for the request, and the reactions of their families. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative techniques. Physicians described requesting patients as having strong and vivid personalities characterized by determination and inflexibility. These individuals wanted to control the timing and manner of death and to avoid dependence on others. These preferences reflected long-standing coping and personality traits. Physicians perceived that these patients viewed living as purposeless and too effortful, and that they were ready for death. The requests, which were forceful and persistent, could occur at any point after diagnosis of the terminal illness, and were paralleled by refusal of medical interventions including palliative treatments. Many family members were reluctant to support these requests until they recognized the strength of the preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-390
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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