Doctor’s assistance can improve death experience

A STUDY of physician-assisted death shows the families of terminally ill patients see it as no worse than a non-assisted death, and that sometimes it reduces suffering.

Physician-assisted death (PAD) is legal in the US state of Oregon where, in 2009, 460 terminally ill people died as a result of a lethal drug dose prescribed by a doctor.

Researchers compared the experience of immediate family in 52 cases of PAD from 2004 to 2007, with those of 63 cases where assisted death was not sought, and 34 cases where it was requested but the ill person did not meet all eligibility criteria. 

PAD cases scored higher on a measure for laughing and smiling in their final days, and were more likely to have said goodbye to loved ones and to have retained control of bladder and bowel movements. 

The research did not support the concerns of opponents of PAD who claimed it would become a substitute for quality end of life care, the authors said.