American Psychological Association
Significant ethical challenges arise when mental health practitioners care for patients who seek to accelerate their own dying for rational medically valid reasons. Current and proposed laws provide for medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in several U.S. jurisdictions, all of Canada, and several other nations. Differing provisions of these laws complicate their utility for some patients who seek aid in dying. Some extant laws include roles that mental health professionals might play in assessing patients’ competence or capacity to consent, mental illness, or other cognitive and behavioral factors. Practitioners who choose to accept roles in the MAiD process must consider and resolve a number of ethical challenges including potential conflicts between and among laws, ethical standards, third-party requests, personal values, and patients’ wishes. These include becoming aware of patients who may wish to act independently to end their lives when MAiD laws might otherwise exclude them. Examples from actual cases and the resultant discussion will form a basis for exploration of the ethical and legal complexities confronted when psychologists become engaged in the process either intentionally or incidentally. The lead article (Koocher) is not intended to comprehensively address MAiD in all of its complexity but rather to trigger a thoughtful discussion among the accompanying commentaries.
Koocher, G. P., Benjamin, G. A. H., Bolton, J., & Plante, T. G. (2023). Medical assistance in dying (MAiD): Ethical considerations for psychologists. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 54, 2–13. https://doi.org/10.1037/pro0000500