The Ethics of Physician-Assisted Suicide

Physician-Assisted-Suicide (PAS) is one of the most controversial topics in the medical profession. PAS occurs when a physician provides a competent, terminally ill patient with a prescription for a lethal dose of medication, upon the patient’s request, with the intent for the patient to end his/her own life. The American public and the medical profession both remain deeply divided on the question of whether to legalize PAS. PAS is legally acceptable by state law in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Vermont, California and the District of Columbia, and by court ruling in Montana. In this policy debate Dr. Barry Kinzbrunner will discuss the religious underpinnings, historical precedents and the late 20th and early 21st century experiences in support of his opposition to PAS, while Dr. Fleur Sack will discuss the principle arguments in support PAS, such as patient autonomy, mercy and nonabandonment.

Target Audience

Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Chaplains, Pharmacists, Respiratory Therapists, Medical Students and other interested healthcare professionals.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the religious underpinnings and historical precedents that support opposition to physician-assisted suicide (PAS).
  • Define the ethical concept of the “slippery slope” and its impact on legalized PAS in the Netherlands.
  • Examine insights gained during the 20 years since Oregon passed the “Death with Dignity Act.”
  • Identify key components of the PAS laws under consideration in 30 states that highlight patient rights to self-determination about how and when they die.
Additional information
  • Quill, T. E., & Battin, M. P. Physician-assisted dying: Understanding, evaluating, and responding to requests for medical aid in dying.
  • Kinzbrunner, B. M. (2004). Jewish medical ethics and end-of-life care. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 7(4), 558-573.
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 1.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
  • 1.25 General certificate of attendance
  • 1.00 Nurse Practitioners
  • 1.25 Florida Board of Pharmacy
  • 1.00 Florida Board of Respiratory Therapy
Course opens: 
Course expires: 

Barry Kinzbrunner, M.D.
Executive Vice President
Chief Medical Officer
Vitas Healthcare
Miami, Florida

Fleur Sack, M.D.
Family Medicine
Baptist and South Miami Hospitals
Miami, Florida

Barry Kinzbrunner, M.D. and Fleur Sack, M.D., have indicated that neither they nor their spouse/partner have relevant financial relationships with commercial interest companies, and they will not include off-label or unapproved product usage in their presentations or discussions.

Non-faculty contributors and others involved in the planning, development and editing/review of the content have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Disclosure Policy and Disclaimer

Baptist Health South Florida is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians. Baptist Health has been re-surveyed by the ACCME and awarded Commendation for 6 years as a provider of CME for physicians.
Baptist Health South Florida designates this enduring material for a maximum of 1.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Available Credit

  • 1.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
  • 1.25 General certificate of attendance
  • 1.00 Nurse Practitioners
  • 1.25 Florida Board of Pharmacy
  • 1.00 Florida Board of Respiratory Therapy
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