Ethics Behind Physician-Assisted Suicide

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Assisted suicide is the act of intentionally killing yourself with the assistance of someone else. In the United States, physician-assisted suicide is when a physician provides a patient, who meets the criteria of having a terminal illness, with medication in order to terminate their life to relieve pain and/or suffering. Physician-assisted suicide is often confused with euthanasia.

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Other terms for death by a doctor or physician, such as aid in dying or physician-assisted death, are preferred because the word suicide provides a negative connotation. The term suicide is associated with the early termination of oner’s own life, as a result of mental illness and/or deep emotional stress. When choosing physician-assisted suicide, the patient must administer the medication themselves. Euthanasia is illegal in the US. It requires a doctor, or another individual, to administer the medication to the patient. Witnessing a fatal disease consume a loved one or patient causes ethical unrest and moral uncertainty; as such physician-assisted suicide should never be an option.

Ethics and morals can be seen as the way that humans should live and interact with each other. Although ethics and morals have similar definitions, they are not the same thing. Ethics are a set of principles or rules that may be used by a society to determine how to make and judge a decision; while, morals are a set of values that may be used by an individual to determine how to make and judge a decision. For example, in our society it is ethically wrong to kill other humans; therefore, if someone commits murder, they are considered to be unethical and wrong. Unlike ethics, which apply to everyone, morals may vary from person to person. This allows for a conflict of interest between ethics and morals. For example, it may be morally right to get revenge, but if that revenge harms another person physically, mentally, or emotionally it can be seen as ethically wrong.

It is often argued that humans do not need ethics because there is law and government. While it may be ethically correct to follow the law, the law is not based off of ethics. According to the Ethics Centre, The law tries to create a basic, enforceable standard of behaviour necessary in order for a community to succeed and in which all people are treated equally (1). The law is necessary to keep society functioning in an orderly fashion, but not to ensure everyday human interaction benefits everyone. The example that the Ethics Centre used surround the topic of consumer and producer relationship. There is a law to protect basic consumer rights, but sometimes the solution to an argument or dispute may go beyond the legal obligations of the producer. In a situation like this, following the law may require an individual to retreat from ethical and moral standards. This may, also be the case with physician-assisted suicide.

The job description of any doctor is to use their knowledge to treat patients with illness, disease, or injury and help maintain mental and physical health. Physicians are trained and specialize in medicine. When giving patients the notice that they Allowing patients to take the lethal prescription themselves can States, such as Oregon, that allow physician-assisted suicide in the US require patients to meet certain criteria. Patients must have a terminal illness, meaning that their doctor believes that their illness is incurable and likely to lead to death sometime in the near future. As stated above, the patient must be capable of administering the medication themselves. They must also be mentally healthy and conscious of their actions and the consequences that follow. It is required that there are two verbal requests 15 days apart from each other, and one written request. When determining whether or not a patient qualifies for this procedure, there must be two doctors, the primary care physician and a consulting physician, and two witnesses present. This ensures that there is no foul play involved, the process must be completely voluntary.

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