Assisted suicide compared with refusal of treatment: A valid distinction?

Franklin G. Miller, Joseph J. Fins, Lois Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The continuing debate over the deeply controversial issue of physician- assisted suicide has been complicated by confusion about how this practice resembles or differs from refusal of life-sustaining treatment. Perspectives on ethics and policy hinge on the contested issue of whether a valid distinction can be made between assisted suicide and withdrawal of treatment. This paper uses three illustrative cases to examine leading arguments for and against the recognition of a fundamental distinction between these practices. The first case involves assisted suicide by ingestion of prescribed barbiturates, the second involves withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration, and the third involves a decision to stop eating and drinking. On theoretical and practical grounds, this paper defends the position that there is a valid distinction between assisted suicide and refusal of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)470-475
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 21 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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