Assisted suicide should be legalized
The issue of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) has been, and still is, widely debated on all levels including classrooms, the media, and the Supreme Court. Legalizing physician-assisted suicide is a part of the debate about improving end-of-life care. It can be seen as a quick and easy way to protect patients from inadequate care arrangements. Too many people still suffer needlessly, often because doctors and families just do not know how to serve people who are dying. Many suffer because doctors fail to provide adequate medication for pain. To legalize physician-assisted suicide, would make real reform, such as better pain control less likely. Without those reforms, patients end up with no prospects to live well while dying. In recent years, a great deal of public debate has swelled over the issue of euthanasia, also known as (PAS). Although the argument on both sides offer valid points, it is absolutely crucial that all humans be entitled the essential right to be painlessly and safely relieved of suffering caused by diseases and other painful terminal conditions. Persons experiencing constant pain and misery as a result of health issues must be allowed the right to die with dignity if they chose too. Personally, I feel that a physician-assisted suicide should be legal under certain conditions.
Mention the term “euthanasia,” (term refers to the practice of ending a life in a manner which relieves pain and suffering) and the first thing most people think of is the epic assisted suicide battle of the 1990s starring Jack “Doctor Death” Kevorkian. But Jack Kevorkian did not invent assisted suicide. The practice of assisted suicide is not a modern phenomenon. The issue of whether human beings and more pointedly, doctors have the right to help others die has been in the public discourse since before the birth of Christ. The history of the debate for physician-assisted suicide has been long, even tracing back to the Greek and Roman times. The debate originally was centered on the Hippocratic Oath and the condemnation of the practice. With the upsurge of Christianity, many physicians continued to condemn the practice. Within the last two centuries the public has spurned many discussions about Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia from many different historic perspectives. Although this debate has been lengthy and many of the issues discussed over the centuries are repetitive, new ideas and concerns do emerge with the current debate.
On October 27, 1997, Oregon enacted the Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) which allows terminally-ill Oregonians to end their lives through the voluntary self-administration of lethal medications, expressly prescribed by a physician for that purpose.? ? The Oregon DWDA requires the Oregon Department of Human Services to collect information about the patients and physicians? who participate in the Act, and publish an annual statistical report.? This data is important to parties on both sides of the issue. Only the states of Oregon and Washington permit PAS currently, the newly elected Governor of Vermont, Peter Shumlin has told a pro-euthanasia lobby group that he would push to decriminalize the actions of those who help others kill themselves. “I support end of life choices,” (Shumlin) said Governor Peter Shumlin in a September interview with Vermont Today posted on the Death with Dignity website. Shumlin sympathetically described an encounter he had with a cancer-stricken woman who expressed a wish to be able to kill herself legally. “I cant imagine in my wildest dreams why government would get in between that woman … and her doctor,” (Shumlin) he said. By adapting Oregon??™s laws and procedures clear guidelines can be used as an example for other States considering decriminalizing (PAS).
Cancer, which kills over five hundred thousand Americans every year, advanced cases of AIDS, and other terminal conditions (CDC.Gov) often are incredibly painful and enduring. Patients suffering from such illnesses can often survive for long periods of time because of advanced treatments but often, the treatments themselves are crippling. Total health care costs in the United States (U.S.) reached $989 billion in 1995? and now exceeds $1 trillion, 14% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).of this total, a disproportionate share is attributable to the care of elderly patients shortly before their deaths. Concern has risen over the high cost of health care, especially in the last year of life. (AJRCCM) .
Oregon??™s (DWDA) the specifically prohibits euthanasia, where a physician or other person directly administers a medication to end anothers life. The law allows terminally ill Oregon residents to obtain and use medications. Under the Act, ending ones life in accordance with the law does not constitute suicide. To request a prescription for lethal medications, the DWDA requires that a patient must be an adult. A resident of Oregon, Capable (defined as able to make and communicate health care decisions), and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months. Patients meeting these requirements are eligible to request a prescription for lethal medication from a licensed Oregon physician. The prescribing physician must inform the patient of feasible alternatives to DWDA, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
Opponents of assisted suicide are concerned about the many abuses that could occur if it is legalized. While others oppose of the act predicted that the patients most likely to avail themselves of PAS would be the poor, the ill educated, and the uninsured that are without access to adequate hospice care (Smith). The power and pressures placed on physicians and how it will affect their role as healer, protecting vulnerable groups including the poor, the elderly and disabled persons from abuse, neglect and mistakes Jonathon H Pincus, M.D., Yale University states that ???I have yet to hear of a set of guidelines for euthanasia which would not lead to terrible abuses, even in the opinion of those physicians who are sometimes willing to practice euthanasia. Inevitably, this form of ???therapy??™ would spread to situations in which at present it would be unthinkable” (All.Org).
Although this argument seems plausible, the facts show that guidelines can indeed be emplaced: for example, Oregon??™s Strict requirements that are designed to prevent abuse of the DWDA. Patients must make two verbal requests for lethal medication separated by at least fifteen days, plus a written request. Two physicians must independently confirm that the patient has a terminal illness likely to result in death within six months and that the patient is capable to make and communicate healthcare decisions. If either physician believes the patient suffers from depression or any other psychiatric disorder, he or she must refer the patient for counseling. The prescribing physician also must inform the patient of alternatives to suicide; including hospice care and pain control, and give the patient the opportunity to change his or her mind after the fifteen day waiting period. (Oregon.Gov). Of course, there are dangers when a society decides to allow its citizens this freedom of choice at the end of life. Convenience and greed, in cooperation with a few unscrupulous members of the medical profession, have the potential to create a world of horrors for many people. Those dangers, however, are not inevitable. Proponents of the DWDA indicate satisfaction with the general way in which PAS has been conducted within Oregon. No obvious abuse has been reported, and the public reaction has been calm.
Euthanasia allows patients death with dignity because continuing to live can inflict more problems, on both the patient having to cope with the pain and indignity of a prolonged death, and the family because it is distressing having to witness the gradual decline of a loved one. The doctor patient relationship will not be undermined by the legalization of active euthanasia; instead it will clarify and confirm the relationship. ???We live in a country which endows its citizens with certain inalienable rights. Among those rights, newly given, is a peculiar gift of this modern world the right to participate in the management of our own deaths??? (Rev. John S. Spong). The legal right to die with dignity is an essential modern freedom from which mature human beings dare not shrink. Assisted suicide must never be a requirement, but it should always be a legal and moral option.
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