1. The act of taking one's own life. 2. A person who commits such an act. [L. sui, self, + caedo, to kill]
- physician-assisted s. voluntary termination of one's own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct or indirect assistance of a physician. Physician-assisted s. is to be distinguished from the withholding or discontinuance of life-support measures in terminal or vegetative states so that the patient dies of the underlying illness, and from administration of narcotic analgesics in terminal cancer, which may indirectly hasten death. SEE ALSO: end-of-life care, advance directive.Questions and controversies about assisted s. have become widespread within the health care community and society at large. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 9–0 decision, has ruled that citizens have no constitutional right to physician-assisted s., but has placed no obstacles to legalization of the practice by state legislatures. Under Oregon law any mentally competent resident of the state who has reached the age of 18, and who has a terminal illness that is expected to cause death within 6 months, may make a voluntary and informed decision to terminate life by taking a lethal overdose of oral medicine prescribed for that purpose by a physician. The physician is immune from civil or criminal prosecution. Despite the legalization of physician-assisted s. in at least one state, and the highly publicized activities of “death doctors” in other states, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association have issued official position statements opposing assisted s. in all circumstances. Among objections voiced by opponents of the legalization of physician-assisted s. and its integration into medical practice are the erosion of public trust in the health care professions; the radical change in the traditional physician-patient relationship; the concern that if physician-assisted s. were to become an accepted option for the “treatment” of certain illnesses, physicians might be required to present it to patients as an alternative, and managed-care or other third-party payers might favor it as least expensive; and the fear that, once legal, physician-assisted s. would be permitted for conditions not terminal, and that people other than the patient would eventually be empowered to make the decision. The debate over physician-assisted s. has drawn attention to shortcomings in the care of dying persons and to the preeminent obligation of health care professionals to provide responsible, respectful, appropriate, and ethically sound care.

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sui·cide 'sü-ə-.sīd n
1) the act or an instance of taking one's own life voluntarily and intentionally
2) a person who commits or attempts suicide
suicide vb, sui·cid·ed; sui·cid·ing vi to commit suicide vt to put (oneself) to death

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self-destruction as a deliberate act. Distinction is usually made between attempted suicide, when death is averted although the person concerned intended to kill himself (or herself), and parasuicide, when the attempt is made for reasons other than actually killing oneself.

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su·i·cide (sooґĭ-sīd) [L. sui of himself + -cide] the taking of one's own life.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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