Psychiatric evaluation of death-hastening requests: Lessons from dialysis discontinuation

Lewis M. Cohen, Maurice D. Steinberg, Kevin C. Hails, Steven K. Dobscha, Steven V. Fischel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The authors aim to facilitate the psychiatric evaluation of death- hastening decisions, such as cessation of life-support treatment or physician-assisted suicide, by deriving principles for evaluating patients from a literature review and a recently completed prospective study on dialysis discontinuation conducted by consultation psychiatrists. Factors are delineated and suggestions are provided for the evaluation of requests to accelerate dying. Included are the authors' method for determining major depression in the context of terminal illness and their 'vector analysis' in assessing patient requests to stop dialysis. As our society heatedly examines the care provided to the terminally ill, psychiatry also needs to reconsider whether actions that foreshorten life can be normative and permissible. Familiarity with competency, psychiatric diagnosis, and ease in communication and negotiation between patient, family, and staff are resources that psychiatrists can bring to these complicated assessments. Challenging areas include diagnosing depression, establishing the adequacy of palliative care, and appreciating issues related to personality features, family dynamics, and ethnic differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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