There is an increase in calls to legalize physicians in where assisted suicide has increased a public interest despite any ethical prohibitions. Many people have concerns about how they will die and the emphasis by medicine and society on the intervention and cure has sometimes come at the expense of good end-of-life care (Snyder Sulmasy & Mueller, 2017). Individuals have advocated strongly within the basis of autonomy that physician assisted suicide should be legal when it comes to choices at the end of life.
Physician assisted suicide is legal in seven out of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. When one thinks of physician assisted suicide they think of an option that is given to individuals by law within the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. However, within the state of Montana it is only given as an option via court decision. In Montana once has to also have a terminal illness as well as a prognosis of less than six months to live for it to be considered. Within regards to physician assisted suicide (PAS), physicians cannot be prosecuted for prescribing medications to hasten one’s death.
How one dies, lives & are cared for at the end of life is important, with implications for individuals, their families, and society (Snyder Sulmasy & Mueller, 2017). There is an emphasis by medicine as well as society within the intervention as well and cure that sometimes has to come at the expense of what is considered good end of life care. When on is receiving or has received inappropriate treatment at the end of life care, it can not only be draining but it can also be harmful & that is not only for the patient but for their family as well. Everyone is going to have a concern about death at one point or time in their life. When it comes to end of life care, some patients have received unwanted care & then there are some patients who did not receive the care that was needed.
Within society still to this day medicine is a constant struggle for getting it right for every single patient. Now progress has been made & continues to be made, but has the practices & principles been fully realized? Are the physicians and nurses delivering quality end of life care to this ever diverse & growing population of the elderly? Now this would also be in regards to access to care, any communication barriers, pressure on time constraints as well as care coordination.
Going back to the states that this is legalized in, there are specific rules and methods for each state that is involved. Mainly within this process of end of life care, it involves a prescription from a licensed physician that is approved by the particular state that the patient is a resident of. For instance, in the state of Colorado, the law “allows an eligible terminally ill individual with a prognosis of six months or less to live to request and self-administer medical aid-in-dying medication in order to voluntary end his or her life; Authorizes a physician to prescribe medical aid-in-dying medication to a terminally ill individual under certain conditions; and Creates criminal penalties for tampering with a person’s request for medical aid-in-dying medication or knowingly coercing a person with a terminal illness to request the medication.” (Library, 2018).
Ethical arguments in support of physician-assisted suicide highlight the principle of respect for patient autonomy and a broad interpretation of a physician’s duty to relieve suffering. Proponents view physician-assisted suicide as an act of compassion that respects patient choice and fulfills an obligation of non-abandonment. Opponents maintain that the profession’s most consistent ethical traditions emphasize care and comfort, that physicians should not participate in intentionally ending a person’s life, and that physician-assisted suicide requires physicians to breach specific prohibitions as well as the general duties of beneficence and nonmaleficence. Such breaches are viewed as inconsistent with the physician’s role as healer and comforter (Snyder Sulmasy & Mueller, 2017).
There is a process of reporting the applications for end of life care & of course it varies by state. However, only those states where physician- assisted suicide is mandated that there is a process. In the state of Colorado, the state Department of Public Health and Environment reported that in 2017, 69 prescriptions for aid-in-dying medication were written by physicians for patients, and in 50 of those, the medication was dispended by a pharmacy (Library, 2018).
Library, C. (2018, August 13). Physician-Assisted Suicide Fast Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2014/11/26/us/physician-assisted-suicide-fast-facts/index.html
Snyder Sulmasy, L., & Mueller, P. S. (2017, October 17). Ethics and the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide | Annals of Internal Medicine | American College of Physicians. Retrieved from https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2654458/ethics-legalization-physician-assisted-suicide-american-college-physicians-position-paper
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