The relationship of pain and symptom management to patient requests for physician-assisted suicide

J Pain Symptom Manage. 1991 Jul;6(5):289-97. doi: 10.1016/0885-3924(91)90052-6.


Uncontrolled pain and multiple adverse symptoms compel some cancer patients with advanced disease to consider suicide or to request physician-assisted suicide as their only option. Any debate that focuses on the options to terminate life in patients with advanced disease must give adequate consideration to the existing level of care for patients with these distressing symptoms. Numerous studies have described the educational, attitudinal, and legislative barriers that exist and prevent patients from receiving acceptable pain and symptom management during their illness. Lack of knowledge about the use of analgesics, coupled with the lack of sophistication in diagnosing and treating the psychological complications of cancer, are examples of such educational barriers. Existing continuing care programs, like hospice, that manage symptoms in patients with far-advanced disease are currently insufficient to meet the needs of this large population. We need to address the access to expert care of distressing symptoms including pain and psychological distress as well as the quality of life of this patient population before we can fully address the options for terminating life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Euthanasia* / psychology
  • Home Care Services
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Internationality
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Intractable / therapy*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Suicide* / psychology