Mood Disorders and Suicide
Psychologists as Gatekeepers for Physician-Assisted Suicide?
Suicide in the deliberate taking of one’s life, and most of us tend to think of suicide as the least functional outcome of a human life. Mental health professionals go to great lengths to prevent suicide and to alleviate the suffering that contributes to it. Physician-assisted suicide, by contrast, is a case where medical professionals appear to be facilitating suicide in terminally ill individuals, not acting to preventing it. Though psychologists have not assumed an active role in assisting suicide directly, there is great debate about the role(s) psychologists ought to take in such cases. It could be argued that psychologists, by virtue of their unique training and assessment skills, are best positioned to serve as gatekeepers for physician-assisted suicide. Given trends for prescription authority for psychologists, one may even wonder whether psychologists may someday function as some physicians do now in assisting terminally ill patients to take their own lives. This topic spans a range of ethical, moral, and legal issues that lend themselves to a debate format, or in-class discussion about suicide and the role of psychologists in the prevention and alleviation of suffering.