Should Physician-Assisted Suicide be Legal in Every State?

Physician-Assisted Suicide, or PAS, consists of a terminally ill patient requesting to end their life on their own terms rather than letting the diagnosis determine their time of death. Patients are requesting to die with dignity instead of living their last moments in agony. Some can say that Physician-Assisted Suicide should not be an option.

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One can argue that human dignity and life are sacred or that doctors have a specific role in keeping their patients alive, but should anyone have a say so in how you choose to live or die? With the rising costs of healthcare, suffering through a painful diagnosis, and laws that protect the patient and the person administering the lethal medication; Physician-Assisted Suicide should be legal in all 50 states.

People are diagnosed with terminal illnesses every single day. One of the first conversations a Physician will have with a patient is palliative care options which begin at the time of diagnosis. This offers the patient a care option when there are no known cures for their illness. In severe cases, the Physician might directly request that the patient is put in hospice. While palliative care offers hope for a cure, hospice may be suggested if the patient has a terminal illness which would lead to death in a shorter amount of time with only a treatment plan specialized for maintaining a patientr’s comfort.

Both options are extremely expensive since most insurance companies do not cover all services rendered under palliative or hospice care. Many insurance plans cover some palliative care services, such as pain management. But they tend not to cover services delivered by registered nurses, social workers and chaplains. Many Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance plans offer scant or no coverage of home visits, coordination of care, wound care, social and spiritual counseling, 24-hour hotlines, advanced care planning and family support(para 14). While palliative care reduces the number of hospitalizations and frequent trips to the emergency room, the average cost for receiving this service is $95.30 per day (Ollove). If a patient is put directly on hospice, Medicaid will pay all expenses while Medicare pays for most services. Those on Medicare are still responsible for paying room and board if they are in a nursing facility, emergency care, and any medication attempting to cure their illness (Fay). All these additional costs to pursue care quickly add up. If the alternate option of PAS was legal, that number would drop drastically. The most well-known medication for induced death is known as Seconal. When prescribed under the Death with Dignity law, this medication can cost upwards of $5,000. Due to an increase in price, alternate mixtures have been developed in order to cut costs. The phenobarbital/chloral hydrate/morphine sulfate mix has been found to produce a similar effect and has lowered the cost of PAS from $5,000 to $500 (FAQS). Physician-Assisted Suicide would not only help lift financial burdens placed on the patients and their families, but it would also help prevent them from suffering.

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is the first step on a long journey of pain, discomfort, and suffering. Depending on what diagnosis a patient receives will determine the amount of strain that will be placed on their body before they expire. Cancer is one of the leading causes of patients requesting Physician-Assisted Suicide. The effects of cancer itself are detrimental to oner’s health and the treatment options that are provided inflict more suffering. The side effects of treatment can include pain, nausea, swelling, memory loss, and becoming more susceptible to infections (Side Effects of Cancer Treatment). Along with cancer, AIDS also takes a toll on oner’s body. Once one is infected, they can expect to experience thrush, shingles, weight loss, and sores. As their infection grows, so does their unpleasant symptoms. The later stage of AIDS induces bacterial infections, fever, diarrhea, peripheral neuropathy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia (Mtwisha). There are several terminal illnesses that take a toll on everyone who is diagnosed. Patients should not be expected to live out their days in agony and their families should not have to watch them suffer. Legalizing PAS would put an end to their suffering and let the patients end their life on their own terms when they are ready.

Choosing PAS is a viable option that is now legalized in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and DC along with Montana by Supreme Court ruling (State-by-State Guide to Physician-Assisted Suicide). Although Physician-Assisted Suicide is legal, there are specific eligibility restrictions that the states must follow. The patient must be a resident of the states listed above, they must be 18 years or older, and must be mentally competent. Patients must also be diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to their passing within a six-month period. Patients must also be able to take their prescribed medication without assistance. There are no exceptions to any of these rules. To obtain the dosages of medication, the patient must first make an initial oral request for the lethal medication. The physician who receives the request must be licensed in the patientr’s state and the request must take place in that state. Secondly, the physician must confirm that the patient meets all criteria and they are also responsible for discussing all alternative care options. A second physician must confirm the illness, life expectancy, and mental competence of the patient. If one physician finds that the patientr’s judgement is flawed, a psychological evaluation will need to be done before the patient can move forward with the PAS process. After both physicians find that the patient meets all criteria, the patient must wait a minimum of 15 days to make the second oral request. Once the second request is made, the prescription is written. At any given time, the patient can change their mind. They can choose to not fill the prescription or if the prescription is already filled, they can choose not to take it.(How Death with Dignity Laws Work). These restrictions help protect the patient who chooses PSA and Physicians that administer the medication.

Most believe that a doctorr’s main objective in their career is to keep their patient alive. In specific cases, they are right. When doctors know that the patient can make a recovery with little to no consequences of the diagnosis, they are expected to do whatever it takes to make sure that they do not have to call time of death. Doctors also must keep the patientr’s best interest in mind. There should be an option for patients that have no cure available to them to pass before the diagnosis takes over them and they are no longer that person that everyone else had known. Human dignity and life itself are considered sacred. Keeping someone alive is not the only way of showing dignity. What life does someone have when he or she is no longer able to enjoy it? The pain from terminal illnesses alone is enough for a patient to lead a miserable life. Human dignity and the sacredness of life is the quality of life, not the quantity. Dignity comes when someone is suffering, and people offer their support with all choices made by that patient and standing with them in their time of need.

Physician-Assisted Suicide should be legal in all 50 states. Patients should not have to suffer until their diagnoses take their life. Patients deserve to die with dignity without spending the rest of their lives in pain and the financial burden that continuous healthcare places on them. Laws have been placed to protect not only the physicians but the patients as well. Patients should have their voices heard when it comes to their own lives especially when dealing with something as serious as life and death.

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