If physician-assisted suicide is the modern woman’s last powerful choice, why are White women its leading advocates and main users?


Women, particularly educated White women, are at the forefront of the U.S. physician-assisted-suicide legalization movement, as advocates and leaders. They also represent half of decedents by physician-assisted suicide, though they are a minority among unassisted-suicide decedents. The dominant physician-assisted-suicide narrative is framed in terms of choice. This article focuses on the rhetoric and the reality of choice in physician-assisted suicide for White women in the United States, consistent with an intersectional perspective and with attention to context. It examines the idea of choice in physician-assisted suicide in light of women’s lives, and also considering dominant narratives of physician-assisted suicide and of femininity. A mix of privilege (e.g., White women’s good-enough experiences with medical systems, relative to ethnic-minority women) and disadvantage (e.g., White women’s economic and care challenges, given their longevity but in poor health), combined with dominant physician-assisted-suicide rhetoric (e.g., physician-assisted-suicide as a death of dignity and graceful self-determination) and dominant-femininity ideals (e.g., femininity as graceful self-abnegation), likely contribute to White women’s strong participation in physician-assisted suicide. The implications for professional psychology of intersectional and contextual perspectives on physician-assisted-suicide discourses and practices are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)