Should assisted suicide be legal
PHI 103 Informal Logic
Professor John Moore
January 24, 2011
Assisted suicide laws are clear in many countries and it is illegal, however there are some countries and states such as Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and three American states: Oregon, Washington and Montana it is legal. ???In ancient Greece, the government gave hemlock to those who wanted it. William Shakespeare memorialized the Roman practice in Julius Caesar by depicting Brutus running into the sword held by Strato. Opposition to the practice is also not new, including in the United States; by 1868, more than half of the thirty-seven states in the nation prohibited assisted suicide??? (Egendorf,2004). Even though there are several debates against this topic, it is not up to others to make decisions that violate the rights of the ill. In addition, allowing physician-assisted suicide patients continue to keep control over their situation.
Dr. Jack Kevorkian, by far the most recognized physician and most famous, for his belief in the rights of an individual to make end-of-life decisions. By the late 1980s, Dr. Kevorkian was searching for ways to relieve the pain and suffering of the terminally ill patients and mentally competent. ???Although acquitted many times in the 1990s for helping end pain and suffering of patients, Dr. Kevorkian was convicted in 1999 for assisting a man with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrigs disease. While in prison, Dr. Kevorkian wrote the book Amendment IX: Our Cornucopia of Rights. He is currently a free man having served 8.3 years in prison and two years of parole on a 10-25 year prison sentence??? (The Forum on Law, Culture, Society, 2006).
Part I: Thesis
Assisted suicide is the common term for notorious actions by which an individual helps another person die by their request. The requestor is usually terminally ill. There are many reasons why someone would request physician assisted suicide or for short PAS. A terminally ill person who maybe suffering in pain, a terminally ill person who feels like they have become a burden to their family; a lonely person that is suffering from a life-limiting illness and has no one to offer care and support to them. They are unable to make their own decisions about their life anymore.. Theyve lost their independence and feel like they have no quality of life. Some just refuse to suffer anymore; they want to be permanently relived from the suffering they are enduring with the illness Physician assisted suicide should be a right granted to anyone who is suffering from a painful, deteriorate, or fatal condition that is the causing them to be unable to enjoy their lives as healthy people. Although there are certainly several arguments against this point of view on assisted suicide, it is not up to other people to make decisions that violate the rights of elderly people, sick, and/or poor people. There are several definitions within both the medical and legal communities about assisted suicide but in general, the toughest debate is when a suicide is assisted by a physician as opposed to a family member.
Matthew Bonnelly, a researcher on the use of x-rays suffered from skin cancer. Matthew lost his left hand, his nose, part of his jaw and two fingers on his right hand. The doctors estimated he had one year to live. However, Matthew suffering from all of this pain he wanted to die. Doctors refused his request. Matthew asked his brothers to do it. A few weeks passed by and his youngest brother shot and killed him. We as the healthy people do not know what the sick has to endure with doctor??™s appointments, pain, and suffering. ???In all surveys, unrelieved psychosocial and mental suffering is the most common stimulus for requests. In one study (van der Wal et al), patients who were depressed were 4 to 5 times more likely to have made serious inquiries about PAS or euthanasia. Physical suffering, including pain, is a less frequent motivator than many think in one study (van der Maas), pain alone was a rare motivator in 3% of requests, one of several motivators in 46% of requests, and not cited as a factor at all in the remaining 51% of requests???(Knight & Gunten, 2004).
Part II: Anti Thesis
Many organizations opposes the legalization of assisted suicide. According to a study, in 1998 from Georgetown University??™s Center for Clinical Bioethics ???assisted suicide is likely to accelerate the decline in quality of our health care system??? (Golden). The research found a link between cost cutting pressure on physicians and their willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients were it is legal to do so. Arguments over assisted suicide nearly always centers on the ???slippery slope??? argument ???if we let X happen, the first thing you know Y will be happening??? (Moore & Parker, 2007). This argument suggests that allowing one behavior will lead to a series of increasingly dangerous behaviors. Critics argue that if voluntary assisted suicide is legalized for competent, terminally ill adults, the acceptance of involuntary euthanasia which means intentionally killing yourself for incompetent, elderly or uninsured people will follow. This point of view is reflected in a brief that was presented to the U.S. Supreme Court when it considered Vacco v. Quill and Washington v. Glucksberg the two cases in which the Supreme Court decided there is no legal right to die. The brief written by a collection of doctors and nursing home staff, stated: ???Any new constitutional right to suicide will extend to persons who are not terminally ill, persons who are merely disabled and/or suffering physically, and persons who are comatose, in a persistent vegetative state, or otherwise incompetent??? (Egendorf, 2004).
Many people fear that physician assisted suicide will create an environment in which some people are pressured into committing suicide such as the elderly, poor, or the minorities. A seriously ill and disabled person could feel that they had to validate a choice to stay alive. Despite the arguments by assisted suicide opponents that claim a doctor??™s involvement in the death of a patient is cruel and appalling since they have a primary role for healing people, when we should take in consideration that the terminally ill are forced to live against their will in agonizing pain. Patients seeking a suicide that is safely monitored and administered by a physician often have terminal illnesses from which know they will never recover. According to a report by Exit, ???a Swiss organization that helps in about 100 suicides per year, about 70 percent has cancer, other common conditions are heart disease, AIDS, and neurological disorders such as motor neuron disease??? (Smith, 2010).
While the assisted suicide requestor look at the issue as a matter of personal freedom and private choice, many on the other side of the look at in terms of ethics and religion. In the medical profession, many doctors and nurses have expressed concerns about assisting someone as they die since they consider it to be their duty to help people live instead. They do not see this as a responsibility or an ethical act as medical personnel. However, the statistics of doctors interviewed in a questionnaire-based study did make it clear that recognized the importance of a patient dying with some dignity. In this study, ???60% [of physicians] agreed that physician-assisted suicide should be legal in some cases??? (Smith, 2010).
For many Americans, the most powerful argument against physician-assisted suicide is based solely on morals and religion principle. ???The states cannot legislate on the basis on religious faith but they can legislate on ethical grounds, they may reasonably conclude that the legalization of assisted suicide would dangerously corrode society??™s moral fabric??? (Smith, 2010). Those who are against the argument refer to the bible and Christian tradition understands that murder and suicide is a sin. Many people feel as though they are the ultimate sins that can be committed. In addition, numerous of the religious groups claim life is sacred and by taking a life, even though it may ease someone??™s pain, is not an acceptable within Christian tradition or in the eyes of God. For example, my co-worker and I had a discussion about PAS and he told me he had a discussion with a friend??™s mother who also was dying from cancer about PAS. She stated that ???even though I am not a Christian. I would never want to be involved with PAS. What??™s in God??™s plan I will follow. If he wants me to go through this pain so be it???. Nevertheless, several Christian churches have customarily considered suicide to be a great moral sin. Some denominations have even refused to bury people who have committed suicide.
Part III: Synthesis
Decisions about time and circumstances of death are personal. Capable people should have the right to choose the time and manner of their death.? I, favor physician assisted suicide my late uncle died from lung cancer in 2007 and I can remember getting phone calls from my mother and grandmother upset, because my uncle refused to go to chemo or they would say he missed his appointment. I often would think ???doesn??™t he want to live???, but one day he told my grandmother the healing process is worse than having the cancer itself. I thought about this statement.
Suffering means more than pain; there are other physical, social, and mental burdens such as the loss of independence, loss of sense of self, and useful capacities that some patients feel risk their pride. It is not always possible to relieve suffering. Therefore, physician assisted suicide may be a sympathetic response to relieve them from the suffering. Some admit that assisted death already occurs, even if in secret. Even though it is illegal in most states it prevents an open discussion, in which patients and physicians could take on. If physician assisted is legalized it may promote better end-of-life care for patients. ???Currently, PAS is legal in three states: Oregon, Washington, and Montana. The reasons patients gave when requesting PAS in Oregon: 86% reported a decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable; 100% reported loss of autonomy, and 86% reported loss of dignity. Of those patients in Oregon that request PAS, roughly 62% of them actually complete it 90% of those patients died at home, and 88% of them were on hospice. Physician assisted suicide accounts for, 15.6 per 10,000 deaths in Oregon??? (Morrow, 2010). Even though our society has strong interest in saving life, that interest lessens when a person is terminally ill and has strong desire to end life. A complete ban against PAD excessively limits personal freedom. Therefore PAD should be allowed in certain cases.
The Bible contains a number of references of men seeking suicide, either by taking direct action or by begging God to kill them on the spot. In passages, the authors of the Bible do not consider suicide to be a huge moral sin. The act of committing suicide or of asking that God kill them are simply a truthful manner. The authors do not interpret these acts as sinful. They seem to be regarded as frank personal decisions. The rights and request of the person choosing to die with self-respect should be respected the government, family, public and the medical personnel.
1. Knight, MD, Sara J., and Charles Von Gunten, MD. “Physician-Assisted Suicide.” EndLink-Resource for End of Life Care Education. 25 Mar. 2004. Web. 15 Jan. 2011. http://endoflife.northwestern.edu/physician_assisted_suicide_debate/why.cfm
2. Laura K. Egendorf.? ? “Introduction.” Current Controversies: Assisted Suicide. Ed. Laura K. Egendorf. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998. August 2004. 21 January 2011. .
3. “Jack Kevorkian Bio.” The Forum on Law, Culture & Society. 15 Jan. 2006. Web. 19 Jan. 2011.