Invited Commentary

Social Contagion Effects of Physician-Assisted Suicide: Commentary on “How Does Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Affect Rates of Suicide?”

Authors: Aaron Kheriaty, MD


The study from Jones and Paton in this issue of the Southern Medical Journal is important not only for informing public health initiatives aimed at suicide risk reduction but also for informing public policy debates regarding proposed laws to permit physician-assisted suicide (PAS).1 The findings here undermine the hypothesis originally proposed by Richard Posner: that legalizing PAS may actually reduce the total number of suicides and postpone those that do occur. Despite a paucity of empirical support, Jones and Paton point out that Posner’s idea increasingly is used in PAS debates in legislative arenas. It allows those in favor of PAS to present themselves as preventing suicide. This study puts Posner’s hypothesis to the test in the actual social laboratory of two US states, Oregon and Washington.

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