The Hippocratic oath is the cornerstone of the medical profession. Once a physician takes the hallowed oath and joins the ranks of healers, he is supposed to place the interests of patients above all considerations. However, there have been various instances where physicians have followed unethical practices, not living up to the promises they made when they joined the medical profession.
Currently, fears abound amidst recurrent debates surrounding the ‘right to die with dignity’. The state of Oregon has legalized euthanasia. As a result, there has been a marked increase in the number of people obtaining prescriptions to end their lives. This has been accompanied by cases of doctors unethically misusing the laws. Kate Cheney’s case highlights the loopholes exploited in Oregon’s laws by unscrupulous physicians. Kate Cheney, aged 85, had terminal cancer and sought assisted suicide under Oregon’s laws. However, Cheney was suspected to be suffering from dementia, which would be likely to undermine her powers of thinking. Her psychiatrist ascribed Kate’s request to be the result of dementia, rather than a reaction to pain. To circumvent the issue, the Kate’s family went ‘psychiatrist shopping’ till they found a psychiatrist willing to certify that Kate had made the request for euthanasia in a sane mind. Thus, Kate received euthanasia as a result of an unethical psychiatrist (Smith).
In a similar case of unethical behavior, Dr Peter Reagan prescribed suicide drugs to Michael P. Freeland of Portland, despite the fact that he was known to suffer from depression. Freeland did not consume the drugs for an entire year after receiving them from his doctor, before committing suicide. The case highlights the inefficiency of the prescribing physician, who took the easy way out of prescribing suicide drugs under cover of Oregon’s laws to a man who was clearly incapable to deciding ending his life with clarity of mind (Schwartz).
Whenever there are discrepancies in laws, there would emerge unethical people to exploit the loopholes. Physicians are no exceptions, as proven by the cases of Kate Cheney and Michael Freeland. Therefore, it is necessary for states to tread with caution while considering passing laws allowing euthanasia.
Schwartz, John. “Opponents of Oregon Suicide Law Say Depressed Man was Wrongly Given Drugs.” NYTimes.com. May 07, 2004. Web. June 25, 2015.
Smith, Wesley. “Assisted Suicide is Not Compassion.” LozierInstitute.org. April 28, 2015. Web. June 25, 2015.