Physician Assisted Suicide Essay

Diseases have remained an issue in human life. It has continuously claimed several lives across the board. Some patients have waited in pain for their last breath. The suffering which they undergo raises eyebrows. For instance, some patients have been pressed to the walls by their ailments. This has compelled them seek for suicide assistance in form of prescriptions for lethal drugs to help them terminate their lives. Such patients have undergone extreme pain that they are left with no options rather to beg to die.

This is an illusion to some critics who preach about the sanctity of life. This paper intends to explore on legalizing Physician Assisted Suicide for terminally ill patients with certain guidelines. Introduction According to Birnbacher (2008), the question of legalizing physician assisted suicide still generates great debate. These two scholars have added their voice to the debate by stressing that physician assisted suicide should be permissible medical caregivers. This should only be possible under certain and considerable conditions.

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Manning (1998) also argued that some diseases are quite traumatizing. The patients tend to face extreme suffering that even doctors can seldom extend their olive branch. For instance, when an individual is suffering from incurable syndromes that press them to the extreme throughout their life, then euthanasia should be allowed (Snyder, 2002). This showed that physician assisted suicide could relieve such patients from the suffering. Based on the debate on physical assisted suicide, the proponents of the debate have appealed for legalizing physical assisted suicide.

Their arguments have basically been founded on principle of autonomy (Birnbacher, 2008). The supporters have maintained that terminally ill patients should be provided an expansive room to either extricate themselves or control the end point of their lives (Humphry, 2005). This should be guided by the level of pain they undergo. However, this has not taken easy with religious principled orchestras (Oregon, 1994). They have maintained that such an act is immoral and very sacrilegious that should seldom slip into the society. This divided stance has drawn various attentions from different stakeholders.

Therefore, physician assisted suicide can be defined as an act of a prescribing a drug to a patient by a physician (Kopelman, 2001). The drug prescription should entail the type of drug a patient can take on his/her own without the assistance of any individual or the drugs which the patient can use with assistance from another party (Drickamer et al, 2008). The drug would cause short unconsciousness and death after while. The physician assisted suicide bears its history in the states of Oregon in the United States of America.

In 1997, the Oregon state legalized physician assisted suicide (Snyder, 2002). However, similar efforts have been made in other states such as Alaska, Arizona, Washington, Michigan, New Hampshire, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts and other states but have been in vain. This act is notably distinguished from euthanasia (Humphry, 2005). Euthanasia is the aspect of putting to death a patient who has remained in a suffering state and incurable condition for long. A medical provider can facilitate voluntary active euthanasia.

This occurs when a patient requests for the same to a doctor or any other party who them responds by providing a lethal dose of a drug. However, involuntary euthanasia occurs when the medical provider provides lethal dose of drug to a patient without his/her consent. Based this, this paper intends to argue in support of the proponents (Kopelman, 2001). Legal Arguments in Support of Physician Assisted Suicide In the United States, various cases have been filed and addressed in courts relating to legalizing physician assisted suicide. In 1994, there was a case of compassion in dying v.

State of Washington (Drickamer et al, 2008; Oregon, 1994). The suit was filed by four physicians, three terminally ill patients and an NGO Compassion in dying. They argued that the Washington State was to amend federal constitution that pointed out that physicians act in assisting suicide was illegal. The Supreme Court disregarded their bids and maintained physical assisted suicide was forbidden in Washington (Snyder, 2002). However, the following points became central in supportive of physician assisted suicide. Liberty Interest in Determination of Death

The United States Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit embarked on legal analysis on the issues of liberty interest in death determination (Oregon, 1994). According to the presiding judge, it was pointed out that decision to die was quite intimate (Kopelman, 2001). An individual had central points of reasoning and make substantial decision about his life (Birnbacher, 2008). For instance, a terminally ill adult who has enjoyed good share of his/her life was obliged to choose between dignified humane death or be reduced to pathetic state by the ailment.

Based on the legal ruling by the Ninth Circuit in Cruzan v. Director of the department of health of Missouri, 110 S. Ct. 2841 (1990), an individual was flamboyant in choosing either to live or die (Humphry, 2005). The same individual had the ability to refuse life sustaining process. Both the United States Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit have expressed differing opinions over the topic. However, both bodies have reached consensus over addressing the rising concern about physician assisted suicide in various states (Snyder, 2002). Benefits of Physician Assisted Suicide

It is quite important to acknowledge the development experienced in this technological age. In the modern times, medical technology has frequently been used by doctors to postpone human death. This has seen various patients kept going by the help of machines (Birnbacher, 2008). However, the extended life seldom guarantees less pain. Patients continuously undergo great pains. For example, many elderly patients diagnosed with emphysema normally kept helplessly using new technology (Oregon, 1994). Such a patient can be relieved from his sufferings by specialists who should be a physician.

In such a case, legalizing assisted suicide would enable such a patient to die quickly without undergoing more pain as his life ebbs out. Therefore, such situations are areas which should be considered in legalizing physician assisted suicide. According to Guthrie (2006), for a patient to be given a self administered lethal dose, the Oregon law stipulates that two doctors consult extensively. This consultation would focus on the possibility of the patient to die natural death within six months (Oregon, 1994). Various statistics have showed that most Americans are undergoing terminal illness.

This implies that they are compelled to endure extreme personal suffering. It had been reported that most patients suffering from terminal illness seldom wish to live for long (Snyder, 2002). They are all aware that their pains will cease. Therefore, they loose hope in any kind of health improvement possibilities. Such patients opt for quick death. Honored Death Just like other proponents, it is essentially to agree that legalizing assisted suicide would save many terminally ill patients (Kopelman, 2001). Most of these terminally ill patients can not easily care for themselves.

Due to this, nursing attendants are ever on the look to assist the terminally ill patients complete some life tasks such as eating and bathroom. In addition, some patients suffering from Alzheimer tend to loose their memories. On losing their memories, they tend to babble incomprehensible words that make no meaning. Proponents have argued that most people would wish that their legacy remain solid. For example, President Ronald Reagan wanted to be remembered for strong leadership he laid to the American people (Birnbacher, 2008).

None of the American would wish to remember the kind of death that president Ronald Reagan undergone. The good president suffered from Alzheimer and died unable even to remember his name. Messerli (2007) asserted that it could have been quite important for patients to be allowed to have their self-worth even when they pass out. Therefore, physician assisted suicide would enable an individual to have dignified death and when everyone can respect him to the last grasp. Unnecessary Medical Bills Can Be Avoided

In the recent past, the costs of medication have continuously escalated beyond limit. Most people have even held demonstrations and protests basically to fault the increasing costs of health care (Kopelman, 2001). Both the governments and other stakeholders have been make several attempts meant to restore order in health sector. For example, those individuals without insurance have remained on the receiving ends. Based on this, the cost especially financial burden associated with sustaining terminally ill patient is corresponding high (Drickamer et al, 2008).

These patients are compelled to pay for medication services such as x-rays, tests and other related services. Within a few days, their hospital bills will be flying higher than normal. Unfortunately, there are no clear indications that such patients would get well any soon. Messerli (2007) tried to brainstorm over the logicality of increasing hospital bills without any improvement on the side of terminally ill patient. He also asked whether that was the best way to enable them spend their hard earned wealth yet it is open that they will die at end of the tunnel. Therefore, legalizing hysician assisted suicide would save both the family and the patient from incurring more medical bills when the only option is through death (Birnbacher, 2008). Organs of Terminally Ill Patients can be used to save Other Patients’ Lives Terminally ill patients are sure that their lives are on the edge. However, various stakeholders have argued that hospitals suffer greatly from deficits of organs required to sustain their patients (Humphry, 2005). They have also argued that most patients die yet their conditions can be restored if the organs in question were at their disposals.

With the long waiting lists for organs in various health facilities, terminally ill patients can easily restore this situation (Snyder, 2002). This could only be possible if physician assisted suicide was legalized. When it was legalized, then doctors and other physicians can easily preserve organs of terminally ill patient to save other patients lives. These organs would include livers, hearts, kidneys and lungs. This should be done before the ailment exhausts the patient (Kopelman, 2001). When an organ is used when the donor was at the edge of death, the organ can be weak or even fail to function.

Messerli (2007) argue that this would put the needs of the living ahead of the dying patients such as those suffering from terminally illness. Therefore, legalizing physician assisted suicide would save the situation by allowing those patients with organ problems to continue living at the expense of the terminally ill patients whose life certainty are well known. Control the Rate of Committing Suicide by Terminally Ill Patients In many occasion, suicide acts have been associated with youthful generations. However, the elderly people have continuously been involved in committing suicides.

Most of the American populations are elderly (Humphry, 2005). These elderly Americans have little to look forward to. They always predict loneliness and pain as the only assets of their future. The agony bacons when they are in confined environment. The only hope is to seek guidance and assistance from a physician to take off their lives (Drickamer et al, 2008). In uncontrolled environment, most of the elderly Americans tend to take handful of sleeping pills and even blow their heads off their shoulder just get rid of their sufferings and pains (Birnbacher, 2008).

It has also been reported that some elderly people commit suicide by jumping off bridges. In such a case where an elderly has become so helpless and hopeless in all his/her life dimensions would be controlled. Some of these people commit suicide even without saying goodbye to their loved one. Therefore, such a person should be given an opportunity to say goodbye to his/her relatives and friends at the hospital as he/she waits the ebbing out life. Messerli (2007) argued that if an individual can manage to kill self, then they should be allowed to commit it through compassion.

Therefore, legalizing assisted suicide would probably give the mercilessly suffering patients the right to die with dignity (Drickamer et al, 2008). Regulatory Gaps Since time immemorial, human beings have undergone plague and illnesses that have compelled them to seek various means for their deaths (Humphry, 2005). The fear and agonies associated with waiting for natural death have driven them for dubious means to claim lives. However, with new technology emerging, various curatives and vaccines have been introduced.

In addition, other treatment options have also been provided for patients. It has also been noted that various afflictions have proved that their curability are beyond human effort (Snyder, 2002). For instance, when sicknesses become terminally, most patients are only left with single and most obvious option that of waiting for their deaths. In this sense, physician assisted suicide becomes quite ethical. A registered physician is allowed to peacefully enable a patient see off the world (Humphry, 2005). This is meant to control any anticipated anguish over the terminal illness conditions.

Just as previously mentioned, it is quite difficult for any physician to force a patient who whishes to live their lives to the fullness. In providing this kind of treatment option to patients, there should be clear understanding and agreement between the stakeholders. This implies that neither the doctor nor the patient seek for this treatment option in his/her complete jurisdiction. In most cases, a sick may be compelled by the family to accept assisted suicide in an effort to save their money. Doctors seldom agree to such pressures. The doctor would seldom take hid based on easing financial burden (Kopelman, 2001).

The decision is quite delicate and requires collaborative thoughts from both parties. In various parts of the world, there are established stringent guidelines meant to be employed in initiating physician assisted suicide. Most states which have legalized physician assisted suicide have established strict laws to make it a practice without any loopholes (Birnbacher, 2008). The patient should be of sound mind and make request both orally and in writing. These requests must be given in two weeks a part. The requests must also be approved by two different doctors.

Drickamer et al (2008) has maintained that various states should step in and make strict laws to guide doctors helping patients commit suicide. Failure of which would result into people seeking orthodox means to take off their lives. Legalizing physician assisted suicide would salvage the level deaths. Morality Issue The topic about physician assisted suicide has remained controversial. From the critic view point, legalization of assisted suicide would place human life in jeopardy (Birnbacher, 2008). They argue that imposing death to an individual is against the law of natural death as stipulated in the bible.

However, as much as we agree with this statement about the sanctity of life, the reality should be allowed to be heard. In some places, morality and ethical laws are drawn from government constitution. Based on this, in Netherlands, Belgium, Washington, Oregon and Switzerland have legalized physician assisted suicide. This shows that it is morally upright for people from these countries and states to conduct assisted suicide (Humphry, 2005). In other religious countries, there are no clear laws prohibiting assisted suicide and laws pointing out that physician assisted suicide are illegal.

In the United States, the legality of physician assisted suicide is inevitable in books. According to the ruling of its supreme court, it is an open forum in which an individual autonomy plays significant roles in making decision (Kopelman, 2001). This decision gave each state to establish its own level of laws on the issue. However, the Supreme Court remained on the spotlight over double standard. According to the Greenwood Library (2004), the court had ordered a woman to be removed from respiratory machine which helped her live in 1976. This was a granted request of the parents of woman from vegetative state.

When it seems that there is no benefits forthcoming from further medical treatment, it is ethical to take off the hook and assist a patient commit suicide (Birnbacher, 2008). Slippery Slope From the above argument, physician assisted suicide seem logical and ethical. However when taking a close look into the matter, it would pose great threats to the society if legalized (Snyder, 2002). For example, various people have raised questions which are perturbing and require redress. Questions relating to legalizing the assisted suicide how would an individual be denied dying right.

There are those who are chronically ill yet are still going strong, there are also those pain free patients whose medication efforts add no value to their health yet are still living. In addition, there are those are mentally ill, depressed patients and even handicapped people whose guidance would have wished that they die. Moreover, there are those infants with serious disabilities who can seldom be allowed to die yet every member of their societies wishes them death. If legalizing assisted suicide can be effective, then all these people could have dead (Birnbacher, 2008). Conclusion

It has become a reality that people fall to terminal illness. In addition, they die after undergoing suffering and excruciating pain that rare people would endure. Imagine of a situation where you have remained alive for four years using respiratory machine assistance. Yet the future remains fog over your health. What can you do about this? The only option to relieve this patient extreme pain is through physicians assisted suicide. Many people like the aforementioned case undergo the same problems yet die after suffering like a dog. Therefore, legalizing physician assisted suicide would save patients agony of suffering.

One patient before she succumbed to her terminal illness was quoted saying “The law wouldn’t let a dog suffer the agony I’m going through before an inevitable death. It would be put down. Yet under the law, my life is worth less than a dog’s. “


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Dordrecht: Kluwer Acad. Pub. Manning, M. (1998). Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide: killing or caring? New York, NY: Paulist Press. Messerli, J. (2007, March 4). Should an incurably-ill patient be able to commit physician-assisted suicide? Balanced Politics Website. Retrieved on June 20, 2012, from: http://www. balancedpolitics. org/assisted_suicide. htm Oregon. (1994). Legislative Statute (Chapter 127). Oregon: The Legislative Counsel Committee. Retrieved June 20, 2012, from EBSCOHost database Snyder, L. (2002). Assisted suicide: finding common ground. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.


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