Assisted Suicide Essay, Research Paper
Physician-assisted suicide is the provision by a doctor, consciously and legally, to a patient who has competently requested it, of the means for that patient to end his or her own life (McCuen 10). Large amounts of lethal drugs such as barbiturates and carbon monoxide, are inhaled to painlessly cause death. Usually a physician, family member, or a friend fulfills someone s request for help in dying. Usually it involves a terminally ill patient who wishes to die but is not capable of self-destruction. He may need a doctor to give a lethal injection or prescription or a family member to help him arrange another means of suicide. In the case of assisted suicide, the patient, while receiving help, alone performs the final, death-inducing act (Wekesser 12). Physician-assisted suicide is ethical and should be legalized.
There are three types of aid-in-dying, the first being active euthanasia, which involves painlessly putting one to death for merciful reasons. A doctor gives a lethal dose of medication to the patient. Passive euthanasia involves not doing something to prevent death, when a doctor does not use an artificial respirator for a terminally ill person to stay alive (Encarta 1). Involuntary euthanasia, a person asks to die (by either active or passive euthanasia). Nonvonuntary euthanasia refers to ending the life of a person who is not mentally competent to make an informed request to die, such as a comatose patient (Encarta 1). Euthanasia and assisted suicide are different, because in assisted suicide the patient brings it upon himself or herself and actually causes his or her death with the assistance of another person usually a physician.
Like other civil rights, this controversial issue did not come about suddenly. Throughout history euthanasia has been accepted in some forms by various groups or societies (Encarta 1). Aiding others in dying or putting them to death was common in some situations, in ancient Rome and Greece. If a child was born with major birth defects it was ethical to put it to death. Also in some societies voluntary euthanasia for the elderly was a custom. However, as Christianity developed and grew powerful in the West, euthanasia became morally and ethically abhorrent and was viewed as a violation of God s gift of life (Encarta 1). Passive euthanasia is permitted in some branches of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In many countries there are restrictions on euthanasia, and it has not quite been adopted yet.
The United States and Canada have strict laws regarding active and passive euthanasia. At the request of a patient to end life-sustaining treatment, it is legal for the doctor to do so. Now that there is advanced technology, legal rights have expanded little by little. On June 26, 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that states may continue to ban the practice of physician assisted suicide (Humphry 295). About half the states of America have a specific law forbidding assistance in suicide, and the other half could prosecute under general homicide statuses. The law must change, so that any patient, in consultation with family, friends and consulting doctors, may voluntarily choose to end his or her life easily when there is no sensible hope for anything but never-ending misery.
In France, euthanasia is treated as homicide. However, some French doctors specialize in helping the patient to die, the double-effect procedure that aims at easing suffering but does not deliberately cause death (Bloyd 111). In Great Britain, euthanasia and assisted suicide are treated as a homicide, also. The Netherlands has legalized voluntary euthanasia. Most cases are assisted suicides performed by the patient s private physician, who must consult with another physician before the act (Bloyd 112). The Netherlands is basically the only country in which assisted suicide has been legalized.
Physician-assisted suicide is ethical. A legitimate, universally valid code of medical ethics no longer exists: What has traditionally passes for ethics among doctors is a vague body of unwritten rules of obscure origin that loosely prescribes professional etiquette among themselves and for their relationship with patients (Wekesser 49).
The Hippocratic Oath is a model for the ethical, natural practice of medicine. Doctors need this to be sworn in as an official doctor, this sacred oath was occasionally mentioned in medical schools and rarely studied by the majority of doctors. Some never officially took the oath or even administered it. This alone makes suspect the faithful oath s importance or connection to modern medical practice. Human dignity ennobles free reign to the ability of man to think things over, to decide, and to apply self-control, to become his own master . It is the sense of worth that comes with having the freedom and responsibility to make judgments about what is proper and improper (Wekesser 50). The people who want their suffering ended usually enjoy life, love living, and their feeling for life is a strong as anyone s, but the pain is too great to endure. Also, for many people, just knowing how they are going to be killed is in itself great comfort and often extends lives. Once a person knows how to make his or her exit and has the means, he or she will often renegotiate the conditions of dying (Wekesser 20). Thousands of dying patients in America would be comforted to know that, if and when their suffering becomes intolerable, a human alternative is available to them. Many believe that it is inevitable, that such an arrangement will come. There are simply too many patients who do not wish to languish in such hopeless situations and will take the measures to preclude such pointless suffering, not to mention the many physicians who believe that the current level of suffering is barbaric (Wekesser 20). Helping another die in carefully considering circumstances is part of god medicine and also demonstrates a caring society that offers euthanasia to hopelessly sick people. The one who is suffering should have the right to say when the pain has become an unendurable hardship but if he is unable to decide, then closest friend or family member should decide.
Dying dogs, cats and other animals are put to sleep out of compassion, human beings should be shown the same consideration. It seems that humans should be put to sleep just as ill dogs and cats, but that is not the way society is. Humans should be treated better than animals but if a person wants their life terminated then they should have that choice. The proposition is that people are being treated the same way as animals. The euthanasia standard assumes an equivalency between the moral value of the life of an animal and that of a human being. Animals such as dogs are abandoned or unwanted, and they are killed more often for that instead of being sick or injured. An example is that, when a horse has a broken leg, it is legal to be shot, but to say that a similarly injured person could be killed to put him or her out of misery would never be accepted. Animals are killed for food, sport, purposes of population control, or, at times out of compassion. Most pet lovers who have put a loved sick or injured pet to sleep have done so because they did not want their beloved friend to suffer. Many have also chosen euthanasia for their animal because they did not want to spend the time, effort and money to provide their ill pet with curative treatment, pain control, and or palliation that would materially reduce their suffering without killing them (Smith 209). For humans though, this is not the case; people should do all they can to keep someone alive but when the pain is unbearable, death is sometimes the best way out.
There is not difference between choice in abortion and choice in euthanasia. By abortion being a choice, euthanasia gains the same public acceptance that they perceive currently exists for the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy. Choice is choice, accepting a moral equivalency between abortion and being personally killed by a doctor. In both circumstances, there is a life being taken. Assisted suicide has mostly the same provisions; it should also be a choice.
This issue and the man who has pioneered and personalized it, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, is really all about freedom. This is not all about the right to die, since death comes to everyone. It is about denying that the state has any right to compel innocent, competent adults to needlessly suffer (Wekesser 91). The state of free society prevents a physician from using his or her training and expertise to evaluate each patient and where medically appropriate ease the patient free because his or her life has turned to unbearable pain and agony. If a person is not able to contribute to society and is not in unbearable pain, they have the right to live. Assisted suicide affects people who can not bear to live in the condition that they are in.
It is not a crime in America to watch somebody kill himself and do nothing to stop it, or killing enemy soldiers in war. These facts state that killing a person is not always and necessarily regarded as wrong, it just depends on the circumstances. Therefore, a person can give the dying patient the absolutely essential gift of being present at the deathbed, because nobody should have to die alone, and the presence of a caring friend reduces the chance of the self deliverance being botched (Clement 16).
There is much to be done in the realm of civil liberties. When a method of self-deliverance is available to the hopelessly ill who wish it, the method is guaranteed to be painless and sure. When one has the assurance that privacy will be strictly respected, and when one has been guaranteed that friends and family whose presence and help are desired will not be implicated as criminals. A measure of independence and control is gained in lives.
Assisted suicide is ethical and should be legalized, because proponents emphasize circumstances in which a condition has become overwhelmingly burdensome for a patient. Pain management for the patient is inadequate, and only a physician seems capable of bringing relief. Society should acknowledge the rights of patients and to respect the decisions of those who elect euthanasia (Encarta 3).
The role of the physician is to do what is best for the patient, and in some extreme situations this may include hastening death upon the voluntary request of dying. When desirable life has been thoroughly exhausted and every effort has been made to prevent the inevitable, assisted suicide should be made legally possible for the merciful, to show mercy to the dying who request intervention to end their suffering. Doctors may protest that they are committing to preserve and enhance life, not to end it deliberately. If the role of the physician is defined solely in terms if healing, then of course, this excludes assisting someone to die (Smith 45). This is the wrong way to go about defining the scope and limits of the doctor s proper function. In some extreme circumstances, the best service a physician can render may be to help a person hasten death in order to relieve intolerable, unnecessary suffering that makes life unbearable, as judged by the patient. This would be an enlargement of the physician s role, not a contradiction of it.