Ethics and Behavior 6 (4):353 – 366 (1996)

A review of the literature was conducted to better understand the (potential) role of mental health professionals in physician-assisted suicide. Numerous studies indicate that depression is one of the most commonly encountered psychiatric illnesses in primary care settings. Yet, depression consistently goes undetected and undiagnosed by nonpsychiatrically trained primary care physicians. Noting the well-studied link between depression and suicide, it is necessary to question giving sole responsibility of assisting patients in making end-of-life treatment decisions to these physicians. Unfortunately, the use of mental health consultation by these physicians is not a common occurrence. Greater involvement of mental health professionals in this emerging and debated area is advocated. Beyond describing mental health professionals' role in the assessment of patient competency or decision making capacity, other areas of potential involvement are described. A discussion of ethical principles relevant to this area follows, along with comments on the training necessary to adequately serve patient needs.
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DOI 10.1207/s15327019eb0604_6
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