Despite advances in pain management, some patients will consider suicide as a way out of the misery. Oregon voters dealt with the issue in 1994 by passing the Death with Dignity Act, which legalizes physician assistance in suicide for terminally ill patients.
The controversial act won a big victory earlier this month when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said the federal government has no business revoking the license of Oregon physicians who respond to a patient's request for assistance.
Funny thing, since the initial passage and numerous legal challenges to the act, hospice utilization and use of morphine to control pain in Oregon has soared, as has the understanding of end-of-life care issues by physicians and healthcare professionals.
It just goes to show that the best healthcare decisions are made by informed patients and their caring physicians, with assistance from families and other healthcare providers.