Physician-Assisted Suicide refers to the situation where the doctor helps the patient in ending his life. The patient expresses his wish to end his life due to the pain and suffering that he is going through.
Why Physician Assisted Suicides should be allowed
Physician Assisted Suicides should be legalized because every individual has the right to choose whether he wants to live or not. Secondly, patients should be allowed to die in dignity. There are patients who have reached the end of life due to terminal diseases. They are in excruciating pain and they want it to end. Secondly, the disease has adversely affected and changed their physical appearance. Instead of seeing their bodies waste away, they want to die in dignity and peace of mind. Even if they were to continue living, what would be the quality of life they would have? Parents of children in life-support machines have the discretion of deciding whether the children should continue living or the machines to be withdrawn. Even if the child was to live, she or he would never recover the physical and mental capabilities of their former life. The chances of doing so are negligible. In the same line of thought, people in certain circumstances should have the opportunity to request and get PAS treatment.
It has been argued that competent care for the dying will reduce PAS (Foley, 1997). In a study conducted in 1998 on 140 Aids patients who had the advantage of caring and loving attendants, 12% of them admitted to taking certain medications in order to hasten death. In the year 2000, another study was conducted on 92 terminally ill patients and it was noted that 17%
had a high desire for death to come quickly (Rosenfeld, 2000). This study was conducted in a palliative care hospital located in New Jersey.
The high quality of end-of-life care has not removed the need for PAS for these substantial percentages of patients (Gill, 2009). There are patients who receive the best palliative care yet the treatment is not able to stop their extreme physical pain. In these few and exceptional cases, PAS should be acceptable. There are also physiological conditions that motivate an individual to desire PAS such as toes that fall, cancer that destroys the patient’s face and secretions from the head and neck due to cancer in these places.
The arguments that physicians are supposed to provide relief to pain and wait for the patient to die from a natural death is hollow. The death from terminal diseases that have destroyed a person’s body can hardly be termed as natural. The idea that those patients who desire PAS are usually depressed is also not conclusive. Neither is the presumption that if the terminally ill patients received treatment for depression the requests for PAS would reduce. The risk that a mentally unstable person would request for PAS and get it is very low. As per the Oregon laws, an individual who has requested for PAS has to be psychologically evaluated to ensure he is in the right frame of mind.
The medical should not lump all the people together and treat them the same way. People should be allowed to die in peace and with dignity. Dying from cancer where the body parts have been highly injured proves to be disorienting. PAS should be legalized for certain cases.
Foley, K. (1997) Competent Care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide.
New England Journal of Medicine 336:54-58.
Gill, M. B. (2009) Is the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide Compatible with
Good End-of-Life Care? Journal of Applied Philosophy, 26: 27–45.
Rosenfeld, B et al (2000). The schedule of attitudes toward hastened death: Validation
analysis in terminally ill cancer patients. Journal of American Medical Association, 284: 2907-2911