A very controversial topic discussed in recent years is physician assisted suicide. The discussion is if it the patient actually has the right to die with the assistance of a physician. Many of the people who oppose physician assisted suicide have arguments based off of religious, moral, and ethical standards.
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Those who support physician assisted suicide have beliefs that it ends suffering of those who are already dying and they respect one’s choice of death. Even physicians are split on this topic, they argue what is the difference between killing and assisted suicide. Physician Assisted suicide is the voluntary termination of one’s own life by administration of a lethal substance with the direct assistance of a physician. Physician-assisted suicide is the practice of providing a competent patient with a prescription for medication for the patient to use with the primary intention of ending his or her own life. For me the main concern with assisted suicide lies with the capability of the terminally ill. Many who are in their last stages of life have begged for a physicians help to end their life. These people who are literally begging to be killed are in suffering a great deal and they believe the only way to end their pain is to kill themselves. When some view this belief some see it in a positive manner and the others see it in a negative manner. For the positives they see it as ending one’s suffering, from a diseases or condition without pain. For the negatives, however, assisted suicide is the direct murder of someone. After researching both sides of the topic, I believe that terminally ill patients with the mental capacity to understand what they are doing should be given the right to physician assisted suicide. I believe this because assisted suicide gives terminally ill patients the chance to end their suffering when they want, have a better quality of life, supports free will, is accepted by ethical beliefs and has some benefits.
Terminally ill patients are going to end up dying. We have machines that will pump your heart for you and continue to circulate your blood but, as far as technology has come today, no technology will end up saving the terminally ill. No technology will be able save them from the pain they go through and nothing will help relieve the immense amount of pain that these patients experience. As the days go the technology/medicine that is keeping them alive becomes a nuisance. The terminally ill patients lives become worsened and they may even start losing their mental capacity. What type of world is it to live in where everyday another piece of you goes and you get closer to death. Many terminally ill patients dont want to live in a world where they are not able to be themselves and ask their physicians to help end their suffering. Many would rather dictate their terms of when and how they go. They would rather be remembered for someone they were than someone they may become. They rather die being self reliant than dependent on someone else. We should respect their choice and this procedure should be just like any other, one self decides. For example, Charlie and Francie Emerick who suffered from prostate cancer, parkinson’s, and heart attacks went through immense amount of pain and asked their physician to end their lives. They were given the euthanasia and passed away together holding hands. Their wish was fulfilled and they dictated the terms of their death and when to end their suffering. Another example is David Goodall, he was 104 and experiencing a number amount of disorders, he was in much pain and on his birthday said he was not happy to be alive. He had to travel to the Netherlands to end his life. He played the music he enjoyed, ate his favorite food, went sightseeing, and was surrounded by the ones who loved him the most. Again his mental and physical being were deteriorating and he dictated when and how he wanted to go. Why should we be able to decide how someone wants to live or die. Stephen Hawking stated We dont let animals suffer, so why humans?. If they are in so much pain that they would rather die, we should listen and help these people end their suffering. There are many times where technology is not enough and the pain is too much to handle. Without physician assisted suicide we are just prolonging the suffering of a terminally ill patient and these are one of the reasons physician assisted suicide for the terminally ill must be legalized.
As mentioned before the quality of life is very important in this debate about physician assisted suicide. Many of the people who would and do request assisted suicide have a disorder which will make them someone who they are not. They will not be able to act the same or understand what is happening to them. They will lose all mental functions and will be suffering without understanding. This would be just as bad as any physical pain. Michelangelo once said one points with the brain not the hand. This shows that the brain is the most important thing in the body and with an ill fit brain it is hard to live. Brittany Maynard a patient with stage four Glioblastoma multiforme said I’ve discussed with many experts how I would die from it, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die. Being able to choose to go with dignity is my greatest hope. This statement shows the thought process of many terminally ill patients. They would rather be remembered and go as who they are than someone they might become. Many do not want to be remembered as those who went through a great deal of suffering and were not themselves but remembered as someone who had dignity. Many terminally ill patients who request assisted suicide lost hope that they will ever be able to recover from their illness, and what type of world is it to live in without having something to look forward too. Without hope the brain will become depressed and the patient’s state of mind will deteriorate. Many terminally ill lose their hope to live and consider themselves useless and burdensomes. No person should ever get to this point and should be give the option leaves this world before it comes to that point. Also many terminally ill patients become recipients of anxiety, from the expensive fees and regret from the family taking care of them. A competent terminally ill patient understands that all of the costs for the hospital will fall on their family and this makes them sad and depressed. According to healthline.org a month at the hospital ranges anywhere from 2,000-10,000 dollars. Many families do not have the funds to cover this cost and will be sent into financial ruin. This cost not only creates anxiety for the terminally ill but also ruins the quality of life for the terminally ill family. If the terminally ill had the option of physician assisted suicide they can help guarantee a better quality of life for them and their family.
The right to assisted suicide is also part of our basic rights. Every American has the individual right to make decisions about their own life. When one who is terminally ill, fully understands what they are doing and asks the doctor to help them with suicide the doctor should support them. This is supported by the American Constitution: … No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property . Every person that is a citizen of America has the right of free will provided by the constitution. The right to free will includes the right to physician assisted suicide. We are the controllers of our own destiny and fate, and the right to physician assisted suicide allows us to be the full controllers of life. Just to have the option would make people feel better. This is proven by surveys taken in Oregon, one of the few states in America to have physician assisted suicide legal. Just the option of assisted suicide makes people feel like they can take every possible route and take time to decide what they really want.
Allowing patients the ability to choose physician assisted suicide is shown in a widely set of common ethical principles. The first ethical principle allowing people the right to physician assisted suicide, is respect of autonomy and self-determination. This principle compels us to respect the right of individuals to make their own decisions about their own lives, even their decision on death. The second ethical principle is compassion for our fellow citizens. Patients which are terminally ill will endure an immense amount of pain both mental and physical. The pain the patient’s experience is unnecessary and can be prevented with physician assisted suicide. Henceforth, making these patients, our fellow citizens, go through this unnecessary suffering is cruel not compassionate.
The right to assisted suicide also does not just help the terminally ill patient but can also help many others. It helps the patient leave their problems. Assisted suicide helps the family recover from a tragedy and continue moving on with society. The family will be allowed to say their goodbyes and a not have to see their loved one be in pain. For example, David Goodall, the 104 year old, was in much pain, but before he preformed assisted suicide, he said goodbye to all his family and friends. In the operation room he was surrounded by his immediate family and this in a sort of way is closure for the family. They got to say what they wanted and saw him in his last moments in the world. The procedure of physician assisted suicide may also help complete strangers. For example, there was a 44 year old woman whose brain stem was damaged, she was completely paralyzed and could only communicate by blinking. She was living off machines. She determined this was no way for her to live and asked for physician assisted suicide. She also made a request before she died and that was for her organs be donated after she passed away. Her request was fulfilled and both her kidneys and liver were harvested and donated to people in need. Today three people lives were changed because of her choice to end her meaningless life and donate her organs. The possibilities could be endless to how many other people lifes could be changed by terminally ill patients ending their life. Organs can be donated to save other people’s lives and allows the family of the terminally ill to say their final goodbyes and closure.
People who oppose physician assisted suicide believe the terminally ill do not have the right to end their suffering, have a right to free will, and have a better quality of life. One of the large components to the opposition is that it is not the physicians job to end someone’s life that physicians are supposed to heal not kill. In contrast to this point, physicians are already familiar with facilitating the death of their patients. Currently all 50 states of America have the right to refuse treatment and be allowed to die. Also all American citizens have the right to be taken off of life support. The only difference between this and assisted suicide is that the patients may go through immense amount of pain by refusing treatment. Another counter to assisted suicide is that it goes against the hippocratic oath. The hippocratic oath is a 2,400 year old document and is it really appropriate standard of evaluation. Modern medicine and technology have already violated the oath by performing surgery. The hippocratic oath states one should never cut for stone and to use the knife on a patient. This part of the 2,400 year old oath is completely violated by today’s medical procedures, but these medical procedures, such as surgery are required to help the suffering of the patients. Also Dr. Michael J. Strauss states Though many people assume that the oath is still taken, it is rarely administered in its original form, if at all showing the hippocratic oath is not even used in today’s medicine. Dr. Robert Olvera also explains The oath also directs physicians, including me, to ‘help the sick.’ So a modern interpretation of the oath might be: Do what is right for the patient. The inconsistency provided by the hippocratic oath are one of the reason why we can not use the 2,400 year old document to deny the right of assisted suicide to terminally ill patients. Another argument made by the opposers is that physician assisted suicide will lead to a slippery slope. Slippery slope is by permitting doctors to help certain patients end their lives, members of some groups may die in disproportionately large numbers and may lead to discrimination in the hospital. After analyzing the data in places where assisted suicide is legal the University of Utah found no real evidence of disproportionate cases of physician assisted suicide. Some argue that assisted suicide is the same as murder but the difference between assisted suicide and murder is that murder deprives the victim of meaningful life that they would have experienced, but physician assisted suicide is only used when the patients future holds nothing but additional suffering. Most of the counter arguments presented by the opposite side can be proven wrong or discredited, giving us more of a reason to support physician assisted suicide.
In conclusion, I believe that terminally ill patients with the mental capacity to understand what they are doing should be given the right to physician assisted suicide. I believe this because assisted suicide gives terminally ill patients the chance to end their suffering when they want, have a better quality of life, supports free will, is accepted by ethical beliefs and has some benefits. As said by Socrates, Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.
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