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Washington v. Glucksberg: Patient Autonomy v. Cultural Mores in Physician-Assisted Suicide

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With the Supreme Court's decision on Washington v. Glucksberg, the clash between patient autonomy and cultural mores reached a zenith. Unintended consequences have often resulted in assisted suicide becoming a difficult and complicated matter. Current laws do not serve dying patients well, nor do they give support to the families who often must stand by helplessly when end-of-life wishes of a patient are not honored. This is complicated by a lack of education and empowerment for those who face these difficult decisions. There remains an ambiguity regarding the roles of health care providers immersed in their patients' end-of-life scenarios. The purpose of this article is to examine the case in the context of the codified social customs of the United States, to determine the conflict between patient desires and current statutes, and to describe how increased awareness of advance directives may improve the current state of affairs.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2011

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  • Journal of Nursing Law was founded to serve the needs of practicing nurses in hospitals, clinics, schools, and elsewhere for solid practical advice on the legal and ethical issues that influence their jobs.
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