More than half of victims of Lou Gehrig's disease said they would consider assisted suicide, according to a two-state survey published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
Lou Gehrig's disease - or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - is a progressive, fatal illness that eventually leaves victims unable to speak, swallow or move.Dr. Linda Ganzini and others from the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland surveyed 100 victims in Oregon and Washington. The survey was finished before Oregon's law making physician-assisted suicide legal took effect last fall.
In the survey, 56 of the patients agreed with the statement: "Under some circumstances, I would consider taking a prescription for a medicine whose sole purpose was to end my life."
Forty-four of these people said they would request a lethal prescription if that were legal. Only one would take it immediately.
The doctors also surveyed 91 relatives who took care of these patients. Three-quarters of them said they shared the patients' views on assisted suicide.
An editorial by Dr. Lewis Rowland of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City said many doctors never discuss the ultimate prognosis with their patients.