Developing a Broader Range of Policies and Practices to Help the Terminally Ill Die on Their Terms
Several countries and, now, at least five American states allow a range of ways for individuals with terminal conditions who want to expedite their deaths to do so. Sometimes called “assisted suicide” , these laws offer an array of circumstances, review processes, and family and physician activities to allow people to die who indicate their readiness to do so. American society has slowly loosened the ties between church and state that have kept divorce, abortion, homosexual activities, and homosexual marriage from acceptance. Each of these changes has resulted in greater personal freedom and, arguably, greater safety, health, and well-being. In the next decade these opportunities should be accelerated with significant reliance on social work expertise in health care, family work, and community practice–which has been significant in the more general development of hospice and palliative care and has been critical to the development and maintenance of other personal freedoms including civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, and health rights.