Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




The highly polarized debate over the practice of physician-assisted suicide is relatively new to the realm of ethical issues. Physician-assisted suicide was first explicitly legalized in the United States in 1994, when Oregon passed its Death with Dignity Act. Although the Act stipulates that a doctor “may prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill people under certain conditions,” the term physician-assisted suicide also encompasses giving a patient information on how to commit suicide, or giving them the means to do so in a form other than a prescription. Physician-assisted suicide is different from euthanasia in that the patient, rather than the doctor, carries out the last step leading to the patient’s death. Exactly what “certain conditions” Oregon’s law entails are highly contested. The impetus behind it was to give rational, terminally ill people a chance to end their lives on their own terms, while preserving their dignity and avoiding incredible suffering from which there would be no relief, other than eventual death.

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