In the recent past, the legalization of assisted suicide has been a significant topic that many people have considered to be highly controversial. In the United States, there has been considerable debate about whether terminally ill patients have the right to die with a physicianr’s assistance. Substantially, in assisted suicide, a physician facilitates the death of a patient through the provision of the necessary information and means to enable the terminally ill patient to perform an act that brings their life to an end. Assisted suicide is considered illegal in a majority of states in the US with Oregon, Montana, Vermont, California, Colorado, and Washington being the exceptions which allow patients who are going through intractable pain to be provided with a lethal prescription to terminate their life. Notably, assisted suicide has been gaining support in the US with a majority of Americans viewing assisted suicide as an appropriate legal option for terminally ill patients. In contrast, opponents of the practice consider it as inhumane, and a form of murder and hence should remain illegal. However, although many people are quick to acknowledge the issues associated with physician-assisted suicide, most fail to realize the numerous benefits that come with its legalization.
To begin with, assisted suicide serves as a means to bringing the pain and suffering of terminally ill patients to an end. As maintained by Emanuel, the unbearable pain that terminally patients undergo is among the primary reasons for the legalization of assisted suicide (630). Undeniably, today, medical technology has made significant strides towards extending the lives of humans. For instance, respirators can be used to support the failing lungs of a patient while the use of medicines can sustain the patient’s physiological processes. However, although patients with high chances of surviving view such medical technology as an invaluable gift to humankind, for terminally ill patients, the technology is just a means of lengthening their suffering. Admittedly, medicine should always help alleviate a patientr’s pain. On the contrary, as argued by Crocker, what medical technology does is to expose a dying patient to more suffering as a result of the continuous pain and agony (12). In the past, there are cases in which terminally ill patients have asked for lethal drugs as an ultimate medication that would bring their pain to an end. For example, an English woman by the name Lillian Boyes, who had rheumatoid arthritis a chronic inflammatory disorder affecting more than a patientr’s joints, pleaded with her doctor to assist her in terminating her life as she could not bear the pain anymore (Douglas 17). Evidently, this demonstrates that pain medication does not always work and hence terminally ill patients should legally be granted the right to assisted death as a way of ending the pain resulting from a non-curable illness.
Secondly, medical care for dying patients is often attached to a high price that sometimes goes beyond the financial capability of the patientr’s family. According to Strinic, the estimated cost of maintaining a terminally ill patient ranges from $2000 to $10000 a month (7). Undeniably, this is quite a high figure which implies that only a few terminal patients in the hospital can comfortably prolong their lives without causing their families a lot of financial strain. For the majority of patients who are not so affluent, the cost attached to their medical care is left to their less privileged families (Strinic 11). In essence, this implies that prolonging the lives of patients with an incurable condition has a damaging financial effect on their families as a result of hospital care expenses. Unquestionably, while the dying patient is still alive, the cost of prolonging their life is not comparable to the familyr’s love for one of their own. However, when such terminally ill patients pass on, their families remain struggling with huge hospital bills which often expose them to financial problems (Crocker 5). As such, if terminally ill patients are legally given the option to terminate their life, then their families would be saved from the financial burden that would result from extended medical care as well as the unbearable pain of seeing their loved one suffer physically.
Additionally, regarding the economic benefits of assisted suicide, the practice also saves money and resources on a national scale. In agreement with this, Douglas et al. argue that many countries across the world have insufficient funds allocated to their health care sector and hence ensuring enough beds and medical practitioners in each hospital are quite a challenge (21). Based on this fact, it would be rightful to argue that using the little resources available to lengthen the lives of dying patients who are critically ill or suffer from an incurable disease, and who are willing to terminate their lives, at the expense of saving the lives of patients with curable conditions but without access to proper medical facilities as a waste of money. From this point of view, it is apparent that assisting patients who are willing to terminate their life do so, the waiting lists for each hospital would be significantly shortened. As well, this justifies the notion that a countryr’s hospital beds, health care funds, and doctorr’s energy should be directed to saving the life of patients with treatable diseases who can resume working and continue making their substantial contribution to the welfare of the society.
Thirdly, by making physician-assisted suicide legal, human dignity would be preserved and protected. Undeniably, nobody would be willing to experience a horrible and excruciating death. All humans desire a dignified and proper end to their life. However, some circumstances may leave a patient wishing to die as a result of too much physical and psychological suffering. For instance, a patient who has been diagnosed with a terminal disease that is painfully debilitating may wish to end their life as a way of escaping the harrowing experience. Besides, as argued by Emanuel, some terminally ill patients are exposed to unnecessary psychological torture when a given incurable illness makes them incapable of doing even the basic things in life such as moving and breathing (634). Additionally, a patient may suffer from stroke or be involved in a significant car accident leaving them paralyzed and hence unable to care for themselves. Such patients tend to develop poor self-determination which is fundamentally the human dignityr’s foundation (Emanuel 636). Irrefutably, when one is unable to do tasks that were previously possible, they are likely to have a sense of humiliation while excruciating pain can result in embarrassing situations, such as crying, which would put a spot on an individualr’s self-esteem. By legalizing assisted suicide, such patients would have the option to terminate their life to preserve their dignity.
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