Why Should Physician Assisted Death Be Legal
Physician-assisted suicide is a area of much controversy and discussion. Whether you are for or against this procedure, you have heard of it in one form or another. In my paper I would like to bring to life many aspects of this growing practice. In my paper I will discuss religion, laws, personal choices, as well as one major question: Sanctity of life vs Quality of life.
Religion is an area that is in most decisions you make, so why is end of life any different. TO dive in to this area, you must understand all sides involved. The patient, the patient’s family, and more often forgotten the physician who is assisting. In an excerpt from an article I read it states” Fully to appreciate the implications of assimilating assisted death into medical practice, one must recognize the spiritual significance of killing on the physicians who euthanize patients or who aid and abet patients in killing themselves.” (Physician-Assisted suicide and Voluntary Euthanasia: How not to Die as a Christian.”) One must really understand the dilemma that the physician has when agreeing to help one end their life. They are bound by an oath to help, but at the same time the same oath states to do no harm. This is an area that is very hard for many physicians to have. They must also except the implications of helping someone end their life, to deal with the burden of guilt, as well as the guilt sometimes brought on by the family left behind.
Physician are not the most important to think of the religious consequences of euthanasia, but the patient more so. They are the ones who must make the ultimate decision to end their life. But who says that to end their life should be against one’s religion? There are many reasons and decisions to think of. Religion also states that one should not have to suffer, and we should do anything to help our loved ones find peace.
Another area that is very important in the area of physician assisted suicide is the legality of it all. Only few states are even legal to have euthanasia as an option at the end of life. One article state “We argue that moving from opposition to neutrality is not ethically neutral, but a substantive shift from prohibited to optional.” (Physician-Assisted Suicide: Why Neutrality by Organized Medicine Is Neither Neutral Nor Appropriate.) this is its self asks the question of being legal and ethical. Rather more so is it morally right vs legally right. The debate amongst the medical community is split. Many are for euthanasia while there are still some against or on the fence as far as their feelings on the subject. In 2014, Brittany Maynard a you woman with brain cancer moved to Oregon so she could end her suffering. Oregon is one of few states with the death with dignity laws. In this article she puts her life to the point stating “I don’t want to die, but I am dying.” She also states “My [cancer] is going to kill me, and it’s a terrible, terrible way to die, so to be able to die with my family with me, to have control of my own mind . . . to go with dignity is less terrifying. When I look into both options I have to die, I feel this is far more humane.” (I Don’t Want to Die, But I’m Dying: Reexamining Physician Assisted Suicide in a New Age of Substantive Due Process.) She chose when and how she would die, in the end she died a peaceful death with her family around her. Why should this not be the case for anyone dying from a terminal illness who has fought through every option. Why would you not let someone chose when they die, and not have to put themselves and family through all the suffering. Many states and other countries are looking at this matter to decide if it should be legal. Everyone should have the right to die with dignity.
There are other issues with the legality of death with dignity. Such as being able to stop all life saving measures, however you must suffer until you die. Many states you may stop all artificial life, however, you cannot choose to end your life. Another article state “If you were on life-sustaining treatment, you would have a right to withdraw the treatment and then we could let you die. But since you are not, we can only allow you to refuse nutrition and hydration or give you palliative care until you die a natural death, however painful, undignified, and costly.” (An Ethical Analysis of Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Rejecting Euthanasia and Accepting Physician-Assisted Suicide with Palliative care.) This means you will have to suffer instead of being able to end that all before it happens. In a study done 216 men and women over the age of 60 were asked if they would want to die with dignity, while most did not, some agreed after being afraid of death and dying. Older people would like their wishes heard as anyone else. (Religiosity and the Wish of Older Adults for Physician-Assisted Suicide.)
Society is a major factor in this debate over physician assisted suicide, there are many sides to be taken. I believe that unless one has seen first hand what some terminal illnesses can do, you do not fully understand how detrimental this choice is. As an oncology nurse I see firsthand the suffering that many patients go through. The families that are turn between what’s “right” and what is best for the patient. I do not belie there is a wrong or right, rather it should be a personal choice. The death and dignity laws should be made legal for all states, so patients do not have to move just to end their suffering. Or be confined by the laws of our system. It should become a fundamental right just as abortion. Society does not want to think of suicide as okay, however in the context of this it should be discussed more. More people with terminal illnesses should be able to have these discussions without feeling like society is coming down on them. And society should help aid these patients in their feelings. Not cast them away for not wanting to suffer. Society having a negative outlook on this subject has been going on for centuries. In a book written by Ian Dowbiggin, he takes it back to the days of Darwin, and that euthanasia is another way of cutting down the population, then helping people. He then in the era of the great depression started a group called Euthanasia Society of America, where his books are a fundamental part of history. (A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America.)
In another aspect we must look at those with not only terminal illnesses but also Disability as well. “Within the right to die movement is an attitude that physician assisted death and disability are two separate issues. State statutes legalizing physician assisted death carefully restrict access to the terminally ill, competent adult who chooses whether or not to self-administer a lethal dose of prescribed drugs.” (Death with Dignity: The Wedge That Divides the Disability Rights Movement from the Right to die Movement.) This means those with disability are arguing that these are two separate areas, as the laws are making them stand as one area. The Euthanasia Society of America states that “Initially, the Euthanasia Society of America, founded in 1939, advocated that it was humane to hasten the death of suffering patients.” They also state that those born with defects should be able to end their suffering without having to live their whole lives defective.
The biggest is debate is that of Sanctity of Life and knowing what is thought to be right as far as religion and society think is right versus the Quality of Life and one’s right to chose to end their suffering. Why should someone have to suffer, when an ending could be so painless and end so quickly. One with an incurable disease, terminal illness, debilitating disability should not have to suffer because society or religion says they must. A person’s right to choose should trump all. If made a fundamental right this would be a choice free to make such as abortion and other decisions, we must make in the US. There is much debate over whether it is morally wrong to have physician suicide, however not everyone is looking at all sides. Those who are religious are only looking at what the bible tells us is wrong to do self-harm, those in the law areas are looking at physician killings, and if it is legal, and society looks at the physicians as breaking the Hippocratic oath of do no harm. But are we really harming the patient more by all these dilemmas.
Left us delve into the physician side a little more. A physician must look at all sides of the decision for helping one in suicide. They must first realize it is not only morally but ethically to be though of. Along with the biggest influence spirituality and the question on breaking a commandment. The physician must not only look at the patient and their wishes but the patient’s family, the laws of that state, the spirituality of the situation, as well as the own physician’s beliefs on it as well. A physician must look at all sides before making a decision. They are after all the ones who must live with the decision after it has been made. Will they feel guilt, will the family blame them for the death of their loved one? Will there be legal consequences after the fact? And most important their beliefs afterwards, and how they could change.
Some arguments to counter with in this research would be to consider this medical homicide, a murder if you will. Also considering the anguish the family will be put through, nit feeling as though they had any say in the end of life of their loved one. Other arguments could include: religious points of view, how many see it as a sin to commit suicide in any condition. That people who choose to have a physician assisted suicide will go to Hell for doing this. Also, finding somewhere that the laws allow, some may not want this to be allowed in their states as they do not want the “blood on their hands.” There are many arguments and counter arguments to be made in this setting for physician assisted suicide.
There are also plenty of refutations as well. That legalizing a doctor to prescribe death is like a wild fire, it cannot be controlled. If we improve our practices of palliative care and hospice there is no reason to have PAS. That the act of PAS is not completely autonomous, it takes the physician to agree as well. That this will be considered mercy killings and there will be fore people using this as a advantage to take a life. The counter to this would be there is no slippery slope, for example Hitler was stopped before trying to get rid of the “outcast” people to form his master race. Therefore, it could never be a reason not to allow PAS. Many see it as a violation of the Hippocratic oath taken by the doctors who are prescribing death. Many see there are many alternatives to PAS such as a patient’s choice to refuse any treatment or any life sustaining treatments as well. The counter to this is that not all patients rely on these treatments and still suffer immensely.
There are not nearly enough people in the US today that even know what PAS is and that it is something that Americans are trying to choose as an alternative to dying a slow miserable death. I believe more people should be able to have more research, and more people should be reached about this real issue we have. There are 7 countries where you may go to choose to end your own life on your own terms. You must meet criteria; however it is your choice to choose how and when you die. Here in the US there are only a few states that allow this such as Oregon. I do not feel enough government official really understand what this is and how it could help millions of patients suffer from incurable, miserable diseases who must suffer out there last days.
I feel the biggest argument I have to battle with my feelings on this issue is the patient’s quality of life. Of you do not have quality of life, then what do you have left to live for? I for one do not think suffering in agony is how I would choose to live out my last few weeks or days.
In conclusion, I feel this is an issue that will soon be brought to light more and debated much before everyone decides on what will be allowed in the US. But for now I hop people will give this a real chance, and the patient’s fighting for it are heard.
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