The Journal of Clinical Ethics




The Desire to Die: Making Treatment Decisions for Suicidal Patients Who Have an Advance Directive

Erica K. Salter

The Journal of Clinical Ethics 25, no. 1 (Spring 2014): 43-9.



This article enumerates and critically examines the potential grounds on which we might treat the case of a patient with an advance directive who attempted suicide, differently from one whose injuries were the result of an accident. Grounds for differentiation are distilled into two potential justifications. The first addresses the concern that withholding or withdrawing care from a patient with self-inflicted injuries would be aiding and abetting suicide. The second examines concerns about the patientís decision-making capacity. Ultimately, it is argued that while there might be legitimate reasons to hold the advance directive of a suicidal patient to a different standard of scrutiny, the fact that the patientís medical state was self-inflicted should not, in and of itself, necessarily invalidate the guidance of the directive. Finally, four practical recommendations are offered for negotiating similar cases.


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