Medically Assisted Suicide Medically assisted suicide is an event in which a physician honors a patient’s request for a lethal dose of medication. It has become a very emotional and controversial issue for many in the United States. The only state legally allowing medically assisted suicide is Oregon since 1997. Although some feel it is unethical and morally wrong, medically assisted suicide should be legalized to patients who are terminally ill because it would relieve them from constant and unbearable physical and psychological pain in a respectable and painless way.
Individuals in the United States have the freedom to make decisions concerning their life such as where they live, what they wear, who they marry, and occupation. Every individual is able to make a decision about his or her life whether good or bad. Everyone is ultimately in full control of his or her own life. By allowing someone to make choices freely regarding their life, the same should be allowed when regarding their death. Some patients passively aggressively choose to end their lives by not continuing treatment or therapy for their disease.
This emphasizes the theory that people can and should control their own lives. Patients choose to end their lives for various reasons: they fear the loss of their independence, which later results in becoming a burden to their family or friends; they want to die in a dignified way, and they also fear the thought of dying alone. Society should understand why an individual wouldn’t want to have to rely on a family member to take care of them.
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Knowing that eventually they won’t be able to do even the easiest daily tasks such as showering, eating, or walking alone, does put a heavy burden on whoever would be taking care of them. It is also reasonable to understand that patients don’t want to be remembered by how they were in their sick state. No one should have to go through seeing their loved one whither away to what isn’t even the person they were to begin with. It would provide much relief to families and loved ones to remember the patient in a healthy and normal condition.
Medically assisted suicide shouldn’t be viewed as a selfish act like regular suicide, but as a dignified and painless way to end a life that would end in the near future regardless. Whether suicides are legal or not, they will occur, and it would be much better if they were brought into the open. Suffering is different then pain. Suffering normally encompasses physical and psychological deterioration for which there is no cure. While many believe taking a life away in any circumstances is immoral, death is a compassionate way to relieve unbearable suffering.
When physicians are asked to help a patient into death, they have many responsibilities that come along with that request. Among these responsibilities are: providing valid information as to the terminal illness the patient is suffering, educating the patient as to what their final options may be, making the decision of whether or not to help the patient into death, and also if they do decide to help, providing the lethal dose of medication that will end the patient's life. Medically assisted suicide became very familiar to the public in 1990 when Dr.
Jack Kevorkian helped to assist his first patient to death. Dr. Kevorkian had invented a machine that consisted of three bottles that were connected to an IV. When the patients were ready to start the process of dying, they turned on the machine in which a sedative was administed first to make them drift off to sleep. Following the sedative was the fatal ingredient potassium chloride. According to Kathlyn Gay, Dr. Kevorkian claimed that he had caused no death; he just helped with his patient's last civil rights.
He believes that doctors that don't help assist their patients are like the Nazi doctors during World War 2, those who used experiments on the Jewish people (50-51). Dr. Kevorkian aided 43 patients to their death. He agreed to assist patients after thoroughly interviewing each patient and realizing there weren’t any other alternative methods for the patient to deter suffering. It was reported that Kevorkian's male patients had severe terminal illnesses that left them incapable of living, while the female patients suffered from breast cancer and other illnesses that are curable (Keenan 16).
Kevorkian’s medical license was suspended and eventually taken away, and he stood trial for murder charges. Dr. Kevorkian was later placed in jail and then released by Judge Richard C. Kaufman who ruled the state’s ban of medically assisted suicide as unconstitutional. It was determined that Dr. Kevorkian’s charges be dismissed due to the basis of the quality of the patient's life, saying that the patient's life was "significantly impaired by a medical condition that was extremely unlikely to improve. " Kaufman also said that people have a constitutional right to commit suicide. Worsnop, 405). According to Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act, "'Terminal disease" means an incurable and irreversible disease that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgement, produce death within six (6) months" (2). The physician is also responsible for letting the patient know of any experimental drugs and any other treatments that may benefit the patient in any way. Another responsibility of the physician is to educate the patient as to what their final options may be.
They are required to inform the patient about their diagnosis, the results of taking any medication that could be given, all alternatives that could be used to treat the patient, and also having the patient contact another physician to confirm the diagnosis (The Oregon Death with Dignity Act 3, hereafter known as The Oregon). It should be agreed that when a patient is left with no other alternatives or methods of survival, they should be allowed to decide if they want to end their own life.
Physicians who aid in a patient’s request for aid shouldn’t be judged as immoral, but only as someone who has the means and education to help patients with their last request in life. It should also be taken into consideration that everyone has the freedom of choice. "Since there is no absolute legal, medical, or moral answer to the question of what constitutes a good or correct death in the face of a terminal illness, the power to make the decision about how someone dies can rest with only one individual--the person living in that particular body" (Shavelson 153).
When patients are already faced with death due to a terminal illness, medically assisted suicide should be allowed so that they don’t have to go through any pain. Many terminal illnesses involve the decomposition of the brain, vital organs, and physical appearance. Patients normally tend to lose their mental activity such as memory and thinking also. It isn’t fair for a patient to have to go through that if they are not willing to. Not only for their mental and physical state of mind, but because of the cost. Patients shouldn’t be required to pay for medical treatment that only prolongs a life with poor quality.
Society also shouldn’t blame a patient for not wanting to lie in a hospital bed and rely on a machine to do their breathing. That patient should be entitled to choose an easy and peaceful death. Patients who make the decision to end their life shouldn’t be viewed as doing something wrong because they are choosing to do something to help them. Decisions regarding time and circumstances are personal to each individual. A competent person should be able to choose. While many view the interest in preserving a life, the interest should deteriorate when the individual has a strong desire to end their life.
In conclusion, medically assisted suicide should not be viewed as ethically wrong. It should be viewed as a humane and graceful way for patients with no other alternatives to die. It prevents an individual who is terminally ill from feeling severe pain and deciding when and how they want to end their life. The suffering a patient goes through is incomprehensible to people who haven’t gone through it. Therefore it shouldn’t be decided by anyone but the individual going through it how long and how much suffering they endure. Bibliography Gay, Kathlyn.
The Right To Die: Public Controversy, Private Matter. Brookfield, Connecticut: The Millbrook Press, 1993. Keenan, James F. The Case for Physician-Assisted Suicide? America. November 14, 1998. 14-19. Shavelson, Lonny. A Chosen Death: The Dying Confront Assisted Suicide. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. "The Oregon Death with Dignity Act. " Yahoo. January 16, 2000, http://www. islandnet. com/~deathnet/ergo_orlaw. html. Worsnop, Richard L. Assisted Suicide. C Q Researcher. Vol. 2, No. 7, p. 145-168. Washington D. C. : Congressional Quarterly, Inc. , 1992.
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