Physician-assisted Suicide Essay

Physician Assisted Suicide Essay

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Introduction The history of physician-assisted suicide began to emerge since the ancient time. Historians and ancient philosophers especially had been debating over this issue. Thus, this issue is no longer new to us. However, it seems little vague because it has not yet been fully told. The historical story consists of patterns of thought, advocacy, and interpretation on whether to legalize assisted death. "Only until June, 1999, the United States Supreme Court issued decisions in two cases that claimed constitutional protection for physician-assisted suicide, Washington v. Glucksberg and Vacoo v. Quill, by a single 9-0 vote covering the case (Bartin, Rhodes, Silver, 1). They also say that this decision mark the beginning of long period debate, which will not be fully resolved (1). Hence, the debate began by professionals from different aspects, especially the physicians themselves. "I will never give a deadly drug to anybody if asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect". A frequent quoted portion of the Hippocratic Oath, written in Greece sometimes during the fifth to forth centuries B.C.E, represented an effort by an apparently small group of physicians to build public respectability by distancing themselves from other physicians who commit assisted suicide. It has had considerable influence in the history of Western medical society and now, once again, physician-assisted suicide has become a major ethical issue in medicine, as well as an issue that involves law and public interests. Of the various issues at the medicine issue, perhaps none has drawn as much attention as assisted suicide. This topic is being discussed with great frequency in newspaper, journals and books about whether it is really necessary and ethical to physicians to participate in this life-ending act. Proponents or advocates of physician-assisted suicide argue that each person has freedom over their own life. Persons whose quality of life is nonexistent and who are having a terminal illness should have the right to decide to seek assistance. In contrast, opponents say that physician-assisted suicide is not an acceptable practice for the physicians legally as well as morally. This issue has become a central concern to the medical profession, legislators, philosophers, social psychologists, as well as the public. Interests in this controversial matter continue to grow increasingly whether it should be legalized. Perhaps everyone would have one's own thought and opinion. Nevertheless, assisted death is never a proper expression of compassion. It shows no care for the patients. Besides, it would be inhuman to assist other people to die. We should instead help the ill patient to recognize his self-worth and learn to cope with his problems, not to assist them in taking their lives. 1. Ethical Assessment - Right to die or to live? Do people have the right to choose how to die? There is unquestionable growing support for permitting doctors to aid patients who wish to hasten their death. Physician-assisted suicide focuses the issue on the right of patients experiencing intolerably suffering to make free decision to end their lives. To propose physician-assisted suicide, Russell writes that many patients will go on suffering in great distress unless their lives are taken away (34). To them, everyone should have the right to request aid in dying if they find that their lives are no longer worth living. Other proponents argue that, in certain circumstances, "it is morally permissible and ought to be legally permissible, for physicians to provide the knowledge by which a patient can take her own life" ;(Dworkin, 3). Basically, the proponents consider two kinds of reasons for supporting this act. The first reason is that of freedom and the second has little to do with choice, but instead, death is to be given if the patients will suffer forever. There are countless numbers of hopelessly ill or incapacitated people in hospitals, nursing home, homes for the aged, and institutions for the insane and mentally defective for whom life is nothing but a tragic burden. For those who have never visited such institutions, it is difficult to realize the human tragedy that exists there. No matter how much money is spent to improve their care and living conditions, many are doomed to utter despair year after year. Others equally incapable of any satisfaction in living wait in their homes longing for death, often at the cost of the health and happiness of the person who must care for them. (Russell, 36) "American should think again before pressing ahead with the legalization of physician-assisted suicide" ;(Emanuel, 73). Opponents feel that physician-assisted suicide is not an acceptable practice for physician as such action is illegal in most places around the world. Although we will face mortality one day, there is no guarantee that our own death will be of our liking. Opponents also argue that under no circumstance should physicians use their medical skills to aid a patient's death. "It is not within the power of medicine and probably never will be - to master life and death and to control nature" ;(Collahan, 85). 2. The physician Roles. We all understand that the group who is designated to carry out assisted suicide falls on physicians. According to Margaret A. Drickamer, support for the participation of physicians in the suicide of terminally ill patients is increasing (146). Proponents claim that if the patients themselves request death due to incurable disease and suffering, the doctor is not killing but doing his duty to relieve patients' suffering. Kamm argues in his article that, "We may permissibly cause death as a side effect if it relieves pain because sometimes death is a lesser evil and pain relief a greater good" ;(2). A doctor, he assumes, has a duty to relieve suffering. Nevertheless, physicians should make an initial assessment of their patients' situation, whether they should be assisted to death, or they are still curable. As Jamison says: To me, assisted suicide is one of the most intimate acts I can imagine. If I were thinking about helping a patient to die, I would certainly need to know how he lived, the kind of life he had. I 'd probably have to know him well, meet his family, have dinner with him, and know the designs on his dinnerware. And even then this might not be enough. (85) Therefore, the physicians should not aid the patients to death without first assessing their situations. Instead, they should treat them with appropriate medication and counseling until they decide to leave. However, we all also understand that the physicians' responsibility is to seek treatment alternatives to help patients from suffering and dying, but not to aid them to die. As Byok states: "…the focus of the present argument will be that as a matter of public and professional policy, physician-assisted suicide should be rejected as a sanctioned practice" ;(108). Some people will say that the doctor who intends the death of his patients is actually killing. For giving a lethal injection of morphine to relieve suffering also involves killing. It changes the physicians' role as a healer. Therefore, it is believed that assisting in death is committing sin. 3. The Religion's perspective Most people in a society may have religions conviction, and those beliefs are sometimes reflected in the positions those individuals adopt. We should know that religion attitudes come into play in our society's conflict. Thus, we can expect that religions will offer perspective on physician-assisted suicide. Generally, the religions will advise against on individual seeking suicide for whatever reason. "Life is a gift from god
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