Ethical Issues of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia Term Paper

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Ethical Issues of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

The ethical issues relating to assisted suicide and euthanasia have captured the attention of the public. The topic of Euthanasia is a contentious one and it inescapably incites strong emotional argument and gives rise to tough beliefs that do not straight away lend themselves to consensual harmony. It is improbable that a decision can be reached which will meet with universal support whenever such clashes of values exist, with apparently little middle ground. It is hard for anyone to anticipate accord on this issue in a society with a plurality of extensively varying moral opinions and faiths. There is an urgent need for the issue of active voluntary euthanasia to be addressed in spite of the difficulties in this area. (Otlowski, 1997)

A constant stress of media attention and increasing anxiety about control at life's end has created severe concern of legalizing the issue of assisted suicide. Public debate has focused on the need for control over the time and way of death, along with forewarning about the possible misuse or damage of intervening society's venerable ban against assisting suicide or absolutely instigating another individual's death. There are deliberations about assisted suicide and euthanasia in the medical and ethical literature. Though it is concomitant with this public discussion, it is discrete from it in many ways. In this discussion, some state that both assisted suicide and euthanasia are ethically incorrect and must not be permitted, in spite of the situation of that specific case. Some others say that assisted suicide or euthanasia is morally lawful in some unusual and special cases, but that professional values and the law should not be modified to approve both practices. Lastly, some support that assisted suicide, or both assisted suicide and euthanasia, should be made officially and ethically fitting options in the case of dying or seriously ill patients. (When Death is Sought Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context)

Stunning media hype was attained by the campaign that insists legalization of physician-assisted suicide. Almost everyone got exposed to the notion of physician-assisted suicide even though it has not been legalized anywhere in the United States except Oregon. (Olevitch, 2002) The important step forward that the activists had been dreaming about since the days of Charles Francis Potter for the euthanasia movement was given by hopeful opinion polls and the 1994 vote in Oregon supporting the first law in American history allowing physician-assisted suicide. (Dowbiggin, 2003)

1. Should this process be legalized?

Assisted suicide and euthanasia should be allowed only with severe and clear procedures. Justice expects that all must be treated in the same way. Proficient, incurably ill patients are permitted to speed up death by treatment rejection. For some patients, treatment negation will not be enough to speed up death; for them the only alternative is suicide. Justice insists that we should permit assisted death for these patients. Even though society has keen interest in protecting life that interest decreases when person is incurably ill and has keen wish to end life. A total ban on assisted death greatly restricts personal liberty. Thus Physician-Assisted suicide or PAS must be permitted in some cases. (Ethics in Medicine: Physician-Assisted Suicide) Support for physician-assisted suicide has also come from a few public advocates. Dr. Timothy Quill shows the sympathetic side of physician-assisted suicide in addition to Doctor Jack Kervokian's 'death machine'. Dr. Quill, in the story of Diane, attempts to persuade physicians to take sincerely the appeal of a patient to die. At present, physician-assisted suicide is permitted only in Oregon State. The opinion of many of the supporters is that there is a right to choose when and where one dies. (Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against)

Justice Benjamin Cardozo, in his explanation on autonomy, says that every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to decide what shall be done with his own body. Batlle, after agreeing with Cardozo, recapitulates individual autonomy hitherto viewed within the legal system as an individual's right to self-determination that includes choices about death and compensates a societal interest in the holiness of life. (Legalizing Euthanasia and Physician-Assisted Suicide: Self-Determination or Unethical Practice?) A strong support of it in medical physicians has come from many studies and in the general public through two published studies. That the physician-assisted suicide should be legal in some cases is the view of 60% of physician in Oregon. Prescription of a lethal dose is the option for 46%.

Though fulfilling a request of a patient for a lethal dose was illegal at this time, 7% have agreed to do so. The public and physicians were questioned in the Michigan study. While support for the legalization came from 56% of physicians and 66% of the public, support for a complete ban came from 37% of physicians and 26% of the public. As there is a support for the legalization of physician-assisted suicide irrespective of the various reasons for each individual choice, this in some way needs to be tackled. Another example for the support of physician-assisted suicide in Michigan comes from the reality that Dr. Kevokian has never been found guilty. (Physician-Assisted Suicide: For and Against)

Regard for personal independence consents the validation of assisted suicide and euthanasia. Moral and ethical opinions supporting assisted suicide and euthanasia contains the principle of freedom to control the time, place, and nature of one's death, putting quality at the end of life above the purity of life. Other factors are the wish to maintain self-respect and personhood in the dying process and resistance to extending life by means of modern medical technology when it is known that care is ineffective. (End of Life Issues and Care) People have a basic freedom to lead the way of their lives, a freedom that should include control over the time and conditions of their death. In suitable cases suicide can decrease suffering or increase self-respect, and people in these conditions should have the permission to take their own lives. A doctor's contribution in assisted suicide or euthanasia can encourage an option taken by the patient, depending on his or her own value system. Personal attitudes about the significance of life and the implication of death differ very much. Ascertaining assisted suicide and euthanasia, as established options would revere this diversity. (When Death is Sought Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context)

According to a research study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, patients were encouraged to visit a doctor for their death wish did so after a decisive and attentive process rather than on one's impulse. The study presenting data that until now has been very limited, involved 35 cases in which patients believed physician-assisted suicide. Researchers worked to get complete information concerning their thought processes, motivations, and experiences by means of interviews with these patients and their family members. The patient's motivation to take part in physician-assisted suicide was revealed in this study and is found to contain three types of issues, namely, illness-related experience weakness, loss of functional activity or uneasiness or loss of sense of self or identity, and worries about the future. (Physician-Assisted Suicide and Why Patients are motivated to Seek Death)

At the time of planning the assisted suicide, none of the patients appeared to be gravely sad. The motivations expressed are comparable to those of other patients who refuse life-sustaining treatment. As per Robert A. Pearlman, lead author of the study, the motivations for physician-assisted suicide recognize issues for physicians to explore with patients who have unceasing illness and life-shortening disease. While addressing the sweeping effects of the illness, including the quality of the dying experience with their patients, the health care providers can take help from these studies. (Physician-Assisted Suicide and Why Patients are motivated to Seek Death)

Thus making assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia legally lawful is a positive step to give people more control over their dying process. Neutrally, there is no single reply as to when in one's life all things become a saddle and redundant. If freedom is a basic value, then the great inconsistency among people on this question makes it particularly significant that people control the way, situation, and timing of their death and dying. (When Death is Sought Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context) The principle of autonomy is very much associated with self-deciding capacity. This principle asserts that people should have the freedom to make their own resolution about the track of their own lives at any time they can. Similarly they should also have the right to decide the way of their own dying. As per these discussions, even when options are communally formed they should be valued as independent as long as there is proper assessment of decisional capability. No person should tolerate terminal suffering that is chronic, intolerable, or delayed.

The dying person should be capable of seeking and getting help in assisted suicide, when the saddle of life overweigh the benefits due to unmanageable…[continue]


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