How Should Physicians Care for Dying Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis?

AMA J Ethics. 2018 Aug 1;20(8):E690-698. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2018.690.


We discuss physician aid in dying, euthanasia, and other dimensions of palliative care decision making and define relevant terms raised by this case of a dying patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in Washington State who is unable to self-administer a lethal prescription. We then present a concrete framework that clinicians can directly apply when faced with difficult cases such as this one. We outline how exploring motivations, obtaining informed consent, defining goals, and examining alternatives can help guide physicians like the one in this case. We conclude by summarizing one way in which physicians might balance these issues while still remaining within the constraints of the law.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / nursing*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Decision Making
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Suicide, Assisted / ethics*
  • Terminal Care / ethics*
  • Terminal Care / standards*
  • Terminally Ill*
  • United States
  • Washington