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Physician-Assisted Suicide: Autonomy, Ethics, Morality, and the End of Life

by Mark Thompson

In Physician-Assisted Suicide: Autonomy, Ethics, Morality, and the End of Life, the California legislature, governor, and courts consider approval of the End of Life Option Act (EOLA) to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Players engage in the forty-year debate from 1976-2016 springing from the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, which raised questions about whether there is a right-to-die, the roles of family and physicians, and how the constitutional right to privacy is involved in end-of-life decisions—questions that affect our control over our own existence, our mortality, our morality, what constitutes appropriate medical care, and the relationship between religious persons and their creeds. Decisions about PAS are truly life-and-death decisions.

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Cultural and Social History; History of Medicine and Health; Philosophy; Religion; Rhetoric and Performance Studies; Health Professions (e.g., nursing programs)

20th Century; Modern History

In a Few Words
Applicable, personal, emotional

United States of America

Themes and Issues  
Class, Gender, Disability

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Collaborative

Sample Class Titles

Psychology of Loss; Methods in Health and Human Values; Critical Thinking

Level 3 game (what's that mean?)

Notable Roles

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, King Philippe of Belgium, Dr. Philip Nitschke

Secret Voting, Rolling Dice, Resurrection Roles, Rhetorical Capital (earned to gain powers in the game)

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is moderately chaotic and demanding on the instructor.

Primary Source Highlights

The History of Euthanasia Debates in the United States and Britain—Ezekiel Emanuel; "Physician-Assisted Suicide"—Lois Snyder and Daniel P. Sulmasy; Excerpts from Rational Suicide, Irrational Laws—Susan Stefan

Using the Game

Class Time  
There are four possible game sessions: legislative hearing, medical ethics board, religious roundtable, and court hearing. The religious roundtable may be dropped and religious arguments given more space in the medical ethics board.

You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/ thesis-driven writing and visual elements. Not all roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Physician-Assisted Suicide in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

VERSION 3.1. Updated March 2020.

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Materials include guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Role Sheets and Handouts

The Instructor's Materials include guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.   

Additional Resources 

Resources for Introduction and/or Debrief

  • A short reading on the "Case of Karen Ann Quinlan"
  • Scenarios that pose ethical dilemmas about patient treatment (e.g., should Elizabeth Bouvia be allowed to be cared for in a psychiatric center as she purposely starves herself to death?)
  • Brief excerpt from a CA senate hearing
  • The debate in the CA senate


Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson is a professor of rhetoric in the English department at California State University, Stanislaus. He has taught with RTTP games since 2015 and has written a game, Physician-Assisted Suicide: Autonomy, Ethics, Morality, and the End of Life. His teaching and research interests include teaching teachers, information literacy, and gamification pedagogy.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The American Eugenics Movement 


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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