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COVID-19, coronavirus, Physician-assisted suicide, suicide, pandemic


Physician-assisted suicide continues to be a controversial topic to many. Now in the midst of a pandemic, the process has brought up more questions. Is COVID-19 considered a terminal illness? Can one be guaranteed death with dignity if a severe COVID-19 infection develops? Will COVID-19 slow the normally prolonged process even more? Physician-assisted suicide first became legal in the U.S. on October 27, 1997, in the state of Oregon. Eight additional states have passed a death with dignity law since Oregon initiated the process in 1994. There are numerous qualifications in order to be considered for aid in dying. The first requirement is that a patient must be diagnosed with a terminal illness with a prognosis to die within the next six months. Then, the patient must be fully coherent and place an oral and written statement of their wishes. After the initial request, the patient must wait 15 days before being asked again by a physician for verbal consent. The patient must remain coherent and be able to self-medicate themselves with the lethal dose. If at any time the patient becomes incapacitated, they no longer qualify for aid in dying and must consider other end-of-life cares. In a patient with a severe coronavirus infection, the 15-day waiting period could be detrimental. The patient could pass within that amount of time, be placed on a ventilator, or incapacitated, which would forfeit their eligibility. The controversy continues due to the fact that COVID-19 is not lethal to all patients. Thus, a physician cannot be certain that a patient who acquires COVID-19 will die from the infection in the next six months. Therefore, access to death with dignity is likely not an option for many patients facing a severe coronavirus infection.

First Advisor

Becky Wolff

Research Area

Health Sciences