There has been much press about people with terminal illnesses who choose to forego treatment and end their lives. These reports include such words as "dignity" and "peaceful."

But we must not lose sight of the risks and benefits in these types of discussions. If a particular disease is treatable, with a high cure rate, and a low risk of death and a low risk of significant, permanent side effects from the treatment, one would hopefully see that undergoing such treatment is a reasonable decision. To the contrary, if the risks of treatment far outweigh any potential benefit, then perhaps foregoing such treatment would be the reasonable choice.

There are many factors that must be considered when one weighs the risks and benefits of a disease and various potential forms of treatment. But let us not lose sight of the big picture when considering these aspects of one's illness.

The following email, from the AMA Morning Rounds, exemplifies what I am talking about: 

Connecticut Supreme Court to decide whether 17-year-old can be forced to undergo chemotherapy.

ABC News (1/6, Lupkin) reports on its website that “a court will determine whether a 17-year-old girl, under something called the ‘mature minor doctrine,’ can be forced to undergo chemotherapy after she refused treatment for her cancer.” The case is headed “to the Connecticut Supreme Court this week to determine whether the teen...has ‘the fundamental right to have a say about what goes on with your [her] body,’ attorney Michael Taylor, who represents the teen’s mother, told ABC News.”

        Fox News (1/6) reports on its website that “the family claims that, by allowing” Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families “to use their judgment over that of” the girl’s “family, without the finding of incompetence on their behalf, the forced treatment violates the family’s constitutional rights.”

        The Hartford (CT) Courant (1/6) reports, “The lawyer representing the cancer-stricken teenager battling the state over forced chemotherapy treatments said that doctors peg” the girl’s “chances of surviving her bout with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 80 percent to 85 percent if she continues with the court-ordered treatments.”