What’s The Difference Between Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS) And Euthanasia?

Physician-Assisted Suicide is where patients with a terminal diagnosis (life-limiting disease) formally request a prescription for a fatal dose of a drug which they can administer to themselves at a time of their choosing. The term “Physician-Assisted Suicide” is being replaced with “Physician-Assisted Death”. It is a patient-initiated and controlled form of dying, to treat an unbearable situation, and is legal in two states in the U.S.A. (Oregon [Death with Dignity Act 1994] and Washington [2009]), and in Europe in The Netherlands.

Euthanasia is when a physician or other healthcare provider does something, such as administering a known lethal dose of a drug, to deliberately kill a patient, with or without the patient’s consent. It is not legal anywhere in the U.S.A.

Some physicians feel that the request for PAS or Euthanasia indicates a lack of a good Palliative Care program, which can offer Palliative Sedation (see below) to control terminal symptoms if other methods fail to do so.