This article is a modified version of the report of a 1992 task force established by the Society for Health and Human Values (SHHV) to develop a statement on physician-assisted suicide reflecting the concerns and attitudes of its members, who are health professionals and scholar-teachers concerned about the values dimensions of medicine. The report is not a set of position statements but instead a two-part series of explanations and questions that promote a thorough and searching examination of the issue of physician- assisted suicide and the diverse and sometimes opposing views that responsible people can have on that issue. Part I consists of five topics and the questions related to them that physicians should ask themselves before establishing a policy on assisted suicide. The topics examined in depth in these sections are the moral status of suicide; clinical and epidemiological aspects of suicide; the relevance of voluntary choice; the nature of professional duty; and social implications. Part II concerns questions that would be advisable for patients to contemplate to be sure they have thoroughly thought through their requests for suicide assistance. The report closes by asserting that discussion and debate on this issue are desirable, that medical education should introduce students to the skills of palliative and hospice care and all methods of sharing control over medical decisions with the patient and family, and that educators should address the full range of questions related to assisted suicide rather than only those oriented toward a single position or discipline.
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