Assisted suicide is a suicide committed by someone with assistance from someone other than themselves, many times a Physician. Assisted suicide is typically delivered by lethal injection. The drugs are setup and provided to the patient and the patient has the choice as to when they deliver them by pressing a button themselves. This is a controversial topic that has both proponents and opponents for various the reasons. The most controversial suicides are those in which the patient does not have the ability to press a button themselves and someone must complete the process for them. It has been argued that this is no longer assisted suicide, but murder. This research will explore the topic of assisted suicide and the many facets of the legal and moral issues.
Assisted suicide differs from euthanasia. In assisted suicide the person assisting only provides the means and drugs necessary. In euthanasia the person's life has ended by another person. These debates have been going on for decades, and viewpoints differ according to a culture and part of the world. The key topic is whether a person has the right to choose when they die. This issue typically only involves those that are seriously for terminally ill. Many times a person just wants to win their life to end the pain and suffering from their condition. Another key controversy is cases where the person wants to end their life because they are depressed or suffer from mental illness, such as anxiety.
History of Assisted Suicide
The term assisted suicide was first used in 1976. However, the issue has been around long before the term was coined. The most ancient form of assisted suicide is actually a form of euthanasia. Throughout human history one can find infanticide and human sacrifice. The Hippocratic Oath prohibits providing a deadly drug to anybody, even if they ask for it. However, in ancient Rome and Greece when someone had a long suffering disease, Physicians would usually provide them with the poisons that they requested. The intense felt that it was perfectly valid to when one's own life if they were suffering and wished to die (ProCon.org, 2012).
During the middle ages Christians and Jews prohibited suicide of any kind because it broke God's authority to determine the length of man's life (ProCon.org, 2012). In the 17th century common law prohibited suicide or assisted suicide at all. It was not until the 17th or 18th century that the topic of suicide or assisted suicide could be discussed at all. During this time the authority of the church was being questioned and human rights in self-determination became a topic of popular discussion. During a brief time during the 18th century toleration of suicide survived only a short time before the church retaliated (ProCon.org, 2012).
In 1915, a landmark action by a doctor changed viewpoints on euthanasia. On November 12, 1915 in a Chicago Hospital a baby boy was born that was badly deformed. The child had a number of physical defects and without surgery would die soon. The doctor convinced the parents to simply stand by and let nature take its course. The parents agreed, and amend a fury of news attention and controversy, the baby died only five days later. This decision opened the door for euthanasia and other doctors soon began advising patients who had deformed children and needed surgery, to simply stand by and allow them to die for the good of society (ProCon.org, 2012). From this moment forward the century would be filled with the debate going back and forth between the sides through legislation and public debate.
The main debate surrounding assisted suicide involved severely disabled and handicapped persons, especially infants. Hitler's attack on entire groups, such as those that are handicapped and mentally ill made Americans look at their own practices. They needed to make sure that they did not have practices that were similar to the NAZI regime. In 1959, the World Medical Association a banned all euthanasia in every country around the world (ProCon.org, 2012). The issue went back and forth between euthanasia supporters and opponents where it still remains today.
In 1973, the American Hospital Association adopted the "Patients' Bill of Rights," giving patients the right to refuse treatment if they decided to do so. Patients now had the ability to commit assisted suicide by refusing by sustaining treatment. In 1976 a decision was made to allow the parents of Karen Quinlan, who had fallen into an irreversible vegetative state, to remove her ventilator. This same year, California adopted legislation giving terminally ill people the right to refuse life sustaining medical treatment when death is believed to be imminent (ProCon.org, 2012). The next major landmark in assisted suicide history came in June of 1990 when Doctor Jack Kevorkian participated in the first doctor assisted suicide by lethal injection (ProCon.org, 2012). This brings us up to where we are today, and the controversy continues to rage.
Current Resources to Address the Issue
Currently disabled Americans are likely to die in institutions, as assisted suicide is banned by many states. Advances in technology while people to live longer with diseases for which they would have died sooner before these advances were in place (Euthanasia.com, 2012). This issue was not heavily addressed in scholarly research journals. This may be due to its highly controversial nature. Many medical institutions choose to ignore the problem, unless there forced to deal with issues.
There many sides to the assisted suicide issue. The state of the topic, its history, as well as both current and traditional ethical values make it impossible to suggest a solution to the problem. At present, there are no potential solutions to the problem of resolving this moral issue. If was suggests a simple solution to the problem they cannot do so without taking sides in the argument. Currently, viewpoints and laws around the world regarding assisted suicide differ widely. In some areas, it is allowed and in others it is banned completely. The only choice for patients who wish to exercise their right to assisted suicide and is to go to an area that allows it. This is the only true potential solution that exists in regards the issue.
Future of the issue
In order to come to a uniform conclusion about the legal and ethical status of assisted suicide there are many issues that must be resolved. One of them is the mental condition and state of the patient at the time they request suicide. One of the key issues that prevents resolution of the issue is determining the status of the patient's mental health (Gorsuch, 2009). The future of assists suicide is uncertain, largely due to the number of issues involved (Smith, 2007). According to Smith, (2007), the idea of assisted suicide has been extended to other issues as well. For instance, in Roe vs. Wade, a case about the abortion issue, assisted suicide was attached to the fetus. This extension of the ideals and principles behind the assisted suicide issue demonstrates its lack of focus in the assisted suicide topic. There are so many angles and considerations that there is a lack of focus in the topic.
Issues of Autonomy, Fidelity and Confidentiality.
Autonomy, fidelity, and confidentiality are important tenets of the legal and medical community. Autonomy refers to a person's own moral standard and their ability to self-govern according to their set of morals. Autonomy is been one of the key issues surrounding the assisted suicide issue. Essentially, the principle of it says that if a person's moral compass tells them that it is acceptable for them to commit assisted suicide than they have that right. However, the assisted suicide issue exists because of autonomy. The person also has the right to consider assisted suicide morally wrong to prevent others from participating in it. This is where people's different autonomies compete with each other. This forms the central problem at the heart of the assisted suicide issue.
Fidelity refers to being faithful or loyal. A doctor has responsibility to uphold the law and the Hippocratic Oath. He will also have fidelity to uphold the laws governing assisted suicide in their particular area. The third area where fidelity touches the assisted suicide issue is that each person has fidelity to their own autonomy. Confidentiality is also a concern in the assisted suicide topic. A person has a right to confidentiality in the medical profession. However, in the case of assists suicide, there may be family members who wish to be present. Family members may also try to stop the suicide against the wishes of the patient.
Cultural Diversity and Assisted Suicide
Views on assisted suicide around the world differ widely. Some countries ban it, others allow it, and others have no laws that address it at all. Not surprisingly, Japan allows assisted suicide if it is approved by the high court. However, instances of this are rare and Japan has complicated taboos about suicide, dying, and death Switzerland allows…