End-of-life care for dying patients has become an issue of importance to physicians as well as patients. The debate centers around whether the option of physician-assisted suicide cuts off, or diminishes the value of palliative care. This ongoing attention makes the crafting of advance directives from patients detailing their end-of-life choices essential. Equally important is the appointment of a health care surrogate. The surrogate, when the patient is too ill to make decisions, should be empowered to make them in his stead. No American court has found a clinician liable for wrongful death for granting a request to refuse life support. An entirely separate issue is that of legalized physician-assisted suicide. As of this writing, only Oregon has made this legal (see Gonzales v. Oregon). It is likely that this issue will be pursued slowly through the state courts, making advance directives and surrogacy all the more crucial.
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