The American Geriatrics Society's website defined physician-assisted suicide in its position paper on the subject (accessed Apr. 6, 2006):
"When a physician provides either equipment or medication, or informs the patient of the most efficacious use of already available means, for the purpose of assisting the patient to end his or her own life."
Sissela Bok, PhD, Senior Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, in her chapter "Physician-Assisted Suicide" from the 1998 book Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against, explained:
"The term 'physician-assisted suicide' is a neologism, perhaps less than ten years old, employed in challenges to laws prohibiting doctors (as well as all others) from being direct accessories to suicide... Depending on who is speaking, it has been used for activities as different as physicians prescribing pills for a patient and explaining what amounts would be needed to bring about death, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian's far more active part in construction and operating the contraptions used for the 'patholysis' that he has dramatized, photographed, and videotaped, with the patient executing the last step."
Kathleen Foley, MD, Professor of Neurology, and Herbert Hendin, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, wrote in the introduction to their 2002 book, The Case Against Assisted Suicide: For the Right to End-of-Life Care:
"In physician-assisted suicide, the patient self-administers the lethal dose that has been prescribed by a physician who knows the patient intends to use it to end his or her life. Both the terms 'physician-assisted suicide' and 'euthanasia' are often avoided by their advocates, who prefer the nonspecific euphemism 'assistance in dying.'"
Margaret P. Battin, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, and Timothy E. Quill, MD, Professor of Medicine, wrote in the introduction to their 2004 book, Physician-Assisted Dying: The Case for Palliative Care & Patient Choice:
"In the introduction and in the title of the book, we use the term physician-assisted dying because it is descriptively accurate and carries with it no misleading connotations. Other contributors to this volume prefer the synonymous term physician-assisted suicide because it is technically accurate, and still others prefer physician aid in dying because it is relatively neutral. Although suicide can be considered heroic or rational depending on setting and philosophical orientation, in much American writing it is conflated with mental illness, and the term suggests the tragic self-destruction of a person who is not thinking clearly or acting rationally. Although distortion from depression and other forms of mental illness must always be considered when a patient requests a physician-assisted death, patients who choose this option are not necessarily depressed but rather may be acting out of a need for self-preservation, to avoid being destroyed physically and deprived of meaning existentially by their illness and impending death. While in general we use the more neutral term physician-assisted death for this reason, we have allowed our authors--and ourselves--to use any of the three terms interchangeably."