What is the definition of life? Is it simply just being alive and breathing? Or, is it measured as something much more meaningful? It can be agreed upon that when someoner’s life has reached a definitive block, and that person is no longer viable to serve as they wish, keeping them alive and in pain, when they can no longer contribute only does more harm over good. Is there a solution to this issue, and is it one that can be accepted by all parties? Physician assisted suicide, has been a topic of great debate and consideration for many years. A great debate that has many different angles to evaluate when taking into consideration the value of someoner’s life.
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Throughout my essay, I will be arguing that physician assisted suicide, the act in which lethal drugs are provided to a terminally ill patient through a doctor who is aware of the patients final intent, is an act that is morally acceptable. Morally acceptable, due to the fact that the patient being in total charge of his or her own fate is crucial to human existence, and whether or not they view themselves as having a purpose in life. The ability to decide your own fate is an important part of freedom, independance, and personal will should be taken at high value. So long as this act is doing no damage to others then there is little reason as to why a patient should have to live in pain, and with little personal purpose.
First and foremost, assisted suicide can be classified into two separate definitions. Active, and passive. Active euthanasia refers to the deliberate act, usually through the intentional administration of lethal drugs, to end a patientr’s life. Passive euthanasia is used to describe the deliberate withholding or withdrawal of life- prolonging medical treatment resulting in the patientr’s death (Walsh, 2009). Passive euthanasia is accepted as morally permissible by much of the population because many see this as leaving the death of the patient to Godr’s will. Passive euthanasia has become an established part of medical practice and is relatively uncontroversial (Walsh, 2009). While passive euthanasia is becoming more accepted by those who previously criticized it, it could still be intentional on the behalf of the patient. The patient could actively make the decision beforehand to withdraw the medical treatment when they reach the point of no longer wanting to have their life prolonged. This decision, would then slightly overturn the idea of Godr’s will and still be making their death their own personal choice. Although the great advances of medical technology may help prolong a patients life, it can also prolong suffering just as much. Terminally ill patients should have the right to assisted suicide because it is the best means for them to end the pain caused by an illness which no drug can cure. A competent terminal patient must have the option of assisted suicide because it is in the best interest of that person (The Right To Assisted Suicide). Furthermore, it can not be argued that assisted suicide is a murderous act. The job of the physicians in charge it is not to purposely cause harm to another, and is in no way causing an unexpected death. It is simply putting an end to a sickness and a life that was prolonging the pain of another who does not wish to continue. A close friend of mine, who I interviewed on the topic, argues, It should be up to the patient; however, when we are in pain how often do we make rational decisions? It almost shouldnt be up to anyone but rather a list of illnesses that warrant assisted suicide, or a form (which they have) that is signed before hand when the patient is in good health (Martinek).
Not only does the certain forthcoming of death take a significant toll on the patient, but it also takes a significant toll on the family members as well. That pain comes in the form of potential financial ruin for the family members who strive to keep their loved one alive, even in a vegetable state often at the expense of their own financial security. The cost of maintaining [a dying person]. . . has been estimated as ranging from about two thousand to ten thousand dollars a month (qtd. in Dworkin 187). Human life is expensive, and in the hospital there are only a few affluent terminal patients who can afford to prolong what life is left in them. As for the not-so-affluent patients, the cost of their lives is left to their families. Of course, most families do not consider the cost while the terminally ill loved-one is still alive.When that loved-one passes away, however, the family has to struggle with a huge hospital bill and are often subject to financial ruin.Most terminal patients want their death to be a peaceful one and with as much consolation as possible (The Right To Assisted Suicide). Additionally, terminally ill patients will often feel an incredible amount of guilt for leaving their loved ones behind with such a financial burden after being left with a nearly lifeless loved one to look after in their slow remaining days. However, this utilitarian approach to this issue also comes with some downside. Flaws do exist in the utilitarian principle when applied to certain situations, for example: the utilitarian approach would argue that a peeping tom is not immoral if he is not caught, meaning that if his victim was unaware, no suffering would occur and his pleasure would be all that mattered. However, most people would agree that other values such as individual rights, justice, and freedom are equally important (Crocker 6). Although physician assisted suicide, is a morally comprehensible and just act for many reasons, it cannot be available to anyone and everyone who seeks it as their best way out. States like Oregon, Montana, Washington and Vermont.
Have begun to make strides in the legal direction regarding this issue. Laws have been put into place to ensure that those who qualify for assisted suicide are prepared under the right circumstances. Laws require that a physician diagnose a terminally ill patient as having a life expectancy of six months or less and a second doctor then must concur with the diagnosis (qtd. in Worsnop, 1997). Patients must request the lethal prescription twice verbally and once in written form with a waiting period of at least two weeks between the first and last request (qtd. in Worsnop, 1997). Lastly the doctor who writes the prescription must believe the patient is mentally competent to make the decision. The law also requires that patients be able to take the pills on their own (qtd. in Worsnop, 1997). Having a guideline in a time of uncertainty can help an ill patient decide what the right decision is in regards to their health. It can help them think over their options in their final stages of life and let them know where to turn next.
How do we define life? Is it simply the act of breathing, or is it defined as something more significant? For many of us, freedom, independance, and individual autonomy, are virtues we hold high; and not only as I have argued throughout this paper does physician assisted suicide uphold those virtues, but it exceeds their definition by allowing us as individuals to have a safe and rather merciful death, in a well thought out and carefully planned agenda. When a human life has reached a natural stopping point, the way to honor their life is not by keeping them alive for the selfish comfort of their family, but it is letting them choose the manner in which they want to leave this world in the most safe and respectable of ways.
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