Ethics and the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide

The debate over physician assisted suicide often leaves many on the fence, with names like death with dignity and describing it as a personal, selfless act, it leaves the wrong idea. These terms are very misleading when itr’s taken into account who is affected by the actions of one person. Physician assisted suicide is more specifically when a physician gives the proper information and/or means for a patient to conduct suicide.

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Life is the very basic right to have and that should not be compromised, it should be protected. Physician assisted suicide should not be legalized rather oner’s life should be protected.

Assisting someone to kill himself should be labeled for exactly as it is, murder. In recent news, a young girl was sentenced to 15 months in jail for assisting her boyfriend in killing himself by text telling him, just do it. Yes, the tone makes quite the difference, but it is contradictory to charge her for her participation in this suicide but encourage a law that would give physicians the ability to write lethal prescriptions and provide counseling on how to properly digest the drug. As one ethicist has stated, In other words, euthanasia and assisted suicide imply that doctors become agents of death and that society legally recognizes a criminal act to be lawful; or even more pernicious, a medical act (Muehlenberg). As a society, oner’s right to life should not just be handed over to the fate of what someone thinks a life is worth. The fact of the matter is, giving this power to government takes away rights and puts each life at stake regardless of any medical condition. One research assistant from the Devos Center for Religion and Civil Society at the Heritage Society makes a great point stating, The idea that some human beings are disposable shakes the very foundations of a free and equal society (Burke). Looking at the overall issue at hand, for every law passed a certain amount of freedom is taken away. No one person or body of people should have the power to declare someoner’s life worth living. Dying is a part of life for each person and should be a natural process without intervention from any human.

With breakthroughs in medical technology, there are options available to improve oner’s quality of life. Palliative care is a better choice for not only the patient but the physicians who started in this field for the sole purpose of healing the sick. The last days of someoner’s life should be about quality not a countdown to what day, hour, or minute is left. Palliative care provides people with serious illness relief from their symptoms improving their quality of life. Modern medicine has came a long way from what would have been excruciating pain waiting for death; now there are many more medicines and therapies available for better care. To further back this claim, a palliative care nurse writes, Today, there is no excuse for any individual, be they adult or infant, to experience an agonizing death. We have an armamentarium of methods and pharmaceuticals (medications) to modify physical pain and death anxiety (Echlin). The potential risk of assisted suicide being merged into palliative care must be examined as well when looking at this argument. Bringing this into an environment where employees may or may not agree with this would bring conflict in the workplace; some employees may experience great distress if having to take part when not in agreement with the act, and leaves the employees as potential gatekeepers for patients who may want one thing against the family who want another. Some palliative care physicians have stated their stance very clearly: As long as the moral permissibility of assisted suicide or euthanasia remain open questions, palliative care units must be permitted to stand outside of the debate, where they can focus on providing care and comfort for patients approaching death (Anwar, et al, 1075). With all the benefits that palliative care brings to the patient, families, and employees, assisted suicide has no place in the medical field.

Assisted suicide is often referred to as a selfless act but it is anything but selfless. The ones who are making the laws are involved as deciding who or who isnt the right candidate to be murdered, the pharmacist that would be filling these deadly prescriptions knowing this will cause one less person to be in the world and most importantly the doctors who get the one on one with this patient who is one minute in their office and the next just another body count. It would be selfish to bring on the argument that this is righteous for one person when in fact, so many others are involved and could potentially damage their own mental health. In the words of a physician himself, Dr.Kenneth R. Stevens, For some of these physicians, the process of participating in physician-assisted suicide exacted a large emotional toll, as reflected by such comments as, It was an excruciating thing to do it made me rethink lifer’s priorities, This was really hard on me, especially being there when he took the pills, and This had a tremendous emotional impact (qtd. In Pies).. Many are familiar that when a physician completes school they are to take an oath, known as, The Hippocratic Oath. Written in the 5th century BC, it is the basis for conduct and ethics in physicians today and as it states, I will neither give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect (Hippocrates), which goes against the core foundation for which the medical field was built upon. Physician assisted suicide should never be on the shoulders on the doctor for how it would alter their profession, the relationship with the patient, and the toll it would take on the physician himself.

With the power over life and death granted the medical profession it would leave some populations at risk and devalues the life of every person. In a healthcare system that is profit driven between HMOr’s and insurance companies, it must be examined who will fall victim to the legalization of assisted suicide. Those who are socially and financially disadvantaged would be impacted greatly with less resources to affordable healthcare options. Dr.Rex Greene, Medical Director of the Dorothy E. Schneider Cancer Center at Mills Health Center in San Mateo, stated his concerns with the possible legalization of assisted suicide, “”The most powerful predictor of ill health is [people’s] income. [Legalization of assisted suicide] plays right into the hands of managed care”” (qtd. In Golden), with his experience at the front lines of the health care system his opinion should be taken into respecatable consideration when assesing the question whether this should be legal. Ones diagnosed with medical disabilities are also at risk of abuses with this particular law. It has been reported that the main reason for people looking at this option because they feal lack of control of their own body and having to rely on others. Assisted suicide is not the answer for the ones who feel as though they are losing their dignity, a community must come together to show compassion and thrive on that human connection to help others. In an article titled, Legalizing Assisted Suicide Would Lead To Abuses, one disability advocates writes: …but as many thousands of people with disabilities who rely on personal assistance have learned, needing help is not undignified, and death is not better than reliance on assistance. Have we gotten to the point that we will abet suicides because people need help using the toilet? (Golden). Now more than ever is the time to come together human to human and bring a rise in true compassion in society and keep that connectivity between each person regardless of what financial status, disability, or social role they play. A compassionate society would not constitue a law that places one at risk who otherwise can not stand up for himself.

The legalization of physician assisted suicide would be detrimental to society and disregards the rights of others. No matter how one tries to describe assisted suicide, it cant be sugar coated. With each person that takes this route someoner’s rights are taken away, feelings of others are disregarded, and it cant be determined that this is what the person actually wants, to die. Medical technology has come a long way from what used to be. Options are available to prolong and improve quality of life for terminally ill, mentally ill, and the disabled that should be utilized. Rather than push for a law that has no true regulations and leaves so many at risk it should be more of a priority to educate the public of other care options. Many assisted suicide advocates often use the word selfless to describe this act. Suicide is not selfless, being selfless can be reflected by pitching in and helping take care of someone who may need it, standing up for someone who may be discriminated against and arent able to speak up themself, and thinking of the feelings of others before following through with this. The role of society is to protect the rightr’s of each other and respect one another. If this law spreads across the country then the thought of ever having a compassionate society will absolutely diminish and human life as we know it will be worth nothing.

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