Attitudes Toward Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide

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Introduction

Death is a sensitive topic for most people. The death of a person or of a loved one is an event that is ritualized across the globe. Death therefore is defined as the permanent cessation of all vital functions that sustains the life of an organism.

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Physician Assisted Suicide is defined as the suicide of a patient by drug prescription with the provided help of a physician. Through this way, terminally ill patients are able to end their life and leave earth in a dignified way. It is currently legalized in six out of fifty US states and in some other countries such as Belgium, Canada, and Switzerland. The option to go through the PAS is only limited to people who are currently terminally ill. Terminally ill patients are defined as people who have illnesses which are either incurable, or no treatment would be effective any more. Aside from the fact that these terminally ill patients would die in their own way and in their own desired time, they also claim that this would help in the reduction of treatment costs that is not only burden to the patient themselves but also to their families who they would leave behind whether they go through it or not. Some people disagree to PAS being legalized across the country because they claim that the terminally ill person may be mentally impaired as well; and that this practice also goes against the physicians Hippocratic Oath. Most people who are interested in the legalization and dismissal of this movement are politicians, physicians, families, and the terminally ill patients themselves.

Body Claim

Terminally ill patients are the only ones legally recognized that can be a candidate for the claim. 70% of people who opt to go through the PAS program are cancer patients. Mostly are people with old age, are white, and are well-educated. To be considered, the person should also be a resident of either one of the states where the statute is legalized. Aside from being terminally ill physically, the person should be of sound mind to be considered. This means that the person should not be going through mental health issues that can be a reason why they choosing to do the procedure. They should be able to communicate well on their own with their health care providers and be able to verbalize their full consent. In regards to their illness, they should be diagnosed to die within the next six months or less and their illness should be approved as a reasonable medical illness that is terminal. Aside from being verbally competent, the person should also be able to take the medicine on their own. The physicianr’s job is only to prescribe and be there during the procedure to make sure the person is decided to do it and to make sure the drug worked afterwards. Basically to pronounce and confirm time of death. They cannot administer it themselves nor can other family members. The person themselves should be able to do it alone. The choice whether they should be alone when doing it or with family members is dependent on their choice. Also, there must be two physicians who had approved of the persons eligibility. Second opinions are required not optional. It must be proved that the person is really terminally ill to be a candidate for the program. (Emanuel, Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Urwin, and Cohen, 2016).

Only eight states out of fifty in the United States has Physician Assisted Suicide legalized. This includes California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii (takes effect on January 1, 2019), Montana, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington (Death with Dignity, 2018). This past several years, the legalization of this act across the country has been focused on. Especially the state of Michigan, where Dr. Jack Kevorkian is one of the most famous supporter who had prompted huge actions towards its legalization. This topic is very sensitive because of the ethics that it goes against. The issue on hand that makes it impossible for it to be legalized on all states is whether it is ethical that the entire country and its society should allow any form of suicide. But that issue goes against the main purpose for legalizing it which is to provide relief from further suffering of those who are terminally ill, individual autonomy which is basically freedom of choice. And if ever it is legalized and the issue about the society allowing its social values to be changed, is whether doctors should participate. As healers, this practice goes against what they believe in (Bachman, Alcser, Doukas, Lichtenstein, Richard, and Corning, 1996).

Although controversial and widely spread issue, only a few people go through the program. According to studies, only about 20% of the US population was reported to have requested for said procedure and only 5% of that actually went through with it. In Oregon and Washington combined, only 1% of physicians reported to have written prescription for the medication used in the procedure. (Emanuel, Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Urwin, and Cohen, 2016).

Relief from pain is not the main reason why terminally ill patients decide to go through this route they see it as dying with dignity and control rather than being controlled by their illness. According to studies, a big chunk of the people who request or go through with PAS, are on palliative care. This means that they are no longer going through extensive procures or surgeries and they are only being given comforting measures to help with their condition but not with the goal to cure them anymore. They do not report to be complaining of pain but instead, they are motivated by their situation and where they are at. Having to stay at a hospice or a nursing home or even at home with having nothing to do other than lay in bed all day can be terribly depressing and degrading. That is why people who decide on the PAS mostly wants to be free to decide to die with dignity. It is not the pain, it is the idea that they are losing grasp of their lives and the last resort to have the satisfaction of control again is to decide to commit to physician assisted suicide. (Emanuel, Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Urwin, and Cohen, 2016).

Conclusion

I, therefore, conclude that the legalization of the physician assisted suicide is an issue with a lot of pros and cons. But setting aside all the political and legal issues correlated to this topic, we should always consider why it is being moved to be legalized in the first place. It is to give comfort and dignity to those who are terminally ill and wants to die knowing that they are leaving with peace of mind and heart. This issue is not legalizing suicide in general, it is still regulated and is only applicable to people with terminally ill patients. It is not saying yes to death. It is saying yes to have a say about how you want your life to be when youre facing a terminal illness. Learning more about this issue only made me more knowledgeable about it and it made me agree with it more. Before I have researched thoroughly about this topic, I have had an idea about it and I completely agree with it. It makes me sad that they had no other choice other than death but I also consider their feelings and their situation. And if the only and last option to comfort them and give them peace is to let them o and allow them to go through physician assisted suicide, then so be it.

Reference

Bachman, J., Alcser, K., Doukas, D., Lichtenstein, R., & Corning, A. (1996). Attitudes of Michigan physicians and the public toward legalizing physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. The New England Journal of Medicine; Boston,334(5), 303- 309. Retrieved from https://searchproquestcom.westcoastuniversity.idm.oclc.org/ healthcomplete/docview/223980812/EC789ED72B084982PQ/13?accountid=162765.

Death with Dignity. (2018, April 5). How to Access and Use Death with Dignity Laws. Retrieved from https://www.deathwithdignity.org/learn/access/

Emanuel, E., Onwuteaka-Philipsen, B., Urwin, J., & Cohen, J. (2016). Attitudes and Practices of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide in the United States, Canada, and Europe. ProQuest,316(1).

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