Dr. Daniel Sulmasy is the Kilbride-Clinton Professor of Medicine and Ethics in the Department of Medicine and Divinity School at the University of Chicago, where he serves as associate director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics and as director of the Program on Medicine and Religion. Sulmasy was appointed to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues by President Obama in 2010. His research interests encompass both theoretical and empirical investigations of the ethics of end-of-life decision-making, ethics education and spirituality in medicine. He is the author or editor of six books, including Safe Passage: A Global Spiritual Sourcebook for Care at the End of Life . He also serves as editor-in-chief of the journal, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics .
Euthanasia occurs when a doctor or other health professional administers a drug that ends a patient's life. Voluntary euthanasia is when a patient requests the lethal drug. Involuntary euthanasia is when someone else decides the drug should be used to end the patient’s life. That person could be a family member, friend, substitute decision-maker or physician. If a person with dementia has no family, friend, or substitute decision maker to speak for them, then a physician may be the one who makes decisions on the patient's behalf.
Giving doctors and patients more open access to, and awareness of, last resort options could have several beneficial effects. One potential effect is increased opportunity for patients to get second opinions from skilled palliative care clinicians to be sure that other less extreme avenues to address seemingly intractable suffering have been considered. Another benefit is reassurance to severely ill patients who fear end of life suffering that there are some avenues of escape that can be pursued openly and predictably. These other last resort options may lessen the desire and need for PAD. Some patients in Oregon and in the Netherlands are choosing these other last resort alternatives even though they have access to PAD because, in some circumstances, these approaches are better able to address their particular needs and may be more congruent with their personal values . Finally, the added alternatives increase both clinicians’ and society’s awareness of their obligation to address intolerable suffering when it is encountered.