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Is physician-assisted suicide the same as euthanasia?

No. Physician-assisted suicide refers to the physician providing the means for death, most often with a presciption. The patient, not the physician, will ultimately administer the lethal medication. Euthanasia generally means that the physician would act directly, for instance by giving a lethal injection, to end the patient's life. Some other practices that should be distinguished from PAS are:

  • Terminal sedation: This refers to the practice of sedating a terminally ill competent patient to the point of unconsciousness, then allowing the patient to die of her disease, starvation, or dehydration.
  • Withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining treatments : When a competent patient makes an informed decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment, there is virtual unanimity in state law and in the medical profession that this wish should be respected.
  • Pain medication that may hasten death: Often a terminally ill, suffering patient may require dosages of pain medication that impair respiration or have other effects that may hasten death. It is generally held by most professional societies, and supported in court decisions, that this is justifiable so long as the primary intent is to relieve suffering.