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(Foley, 54; Braddock and Tonnelli). This again, is an argument based more on conjecture rather than solid evidence. While it is true that depression may accompany many serious and terminal diseases and there are anecdotes about patients who changed their minds about suicide after treatment; no credible studies are available about how often it happens or even if antidepressant treatment would make patients requesting death, change their minds. (Angell, 52)
Kathleen Foley, in her article "Competent Care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide" observes that advances in modern medicine have made it possible to alleviate almost all kinds of pain and even when it is not possible to eliminate pain entirely; lessening it to a manageable level is almost always possible. She, therefore, feels that the problem is lack of proper pain management training for doctors and the solution is greater access to pain relieving medicine for everyone, rather than a need for physician-assisted suicide (Foley, 53). There is no arguing with the suggestion that every effort must be made by a doctor to relieve the pain of a patient and the best available palliative care be provided to them. However, there are many terminal conditions such as full-blown AIDS and several forms of cancer in which no amounts of medicines can alleviate the nausea and pain. In such cases, no one except the patient herself can decide whether her suffering is bearable or unbearable. If a patient requests help from her physician to end her suffering by hastening a dignified death in such circumstance, the only humane thing for the physician to do would be to accede to the request.
The anti-PAS lobby has also contend that people who want to end their lives, have the choice of committing suicide themselves rather than asking for assistance in suicide from physicians. This is perhaps the most callous argument of all. Peter Rogatz counters this objection with an appropriate query: "Are patients to shoot themselves, jump from a window, starve themselves to death, or rig a pipe to the car exhaust?" (Rogatz, 33) Terminally ill, bed-ridden patients usually do not have the energy or the means to go out and look for appropriate poisons or a gun to end their lives. Many of them desire a pain-less dignified end of their lives and their physicians can provide them with the best possible advice to do so. When such a choice is not available, some patients do try the afore-mentioned violent means of suicide, with traumatic consequences for their families; and for the survivors if the effort fails. (Ibid.)
Most of all, as pointed out by Marcia Angell, the universally accepted ethical principle in the field of medicine, is respect for each patient's autonomy, which always takes precedence over other conflicting principles. For example, patients can legally exercise this right of self-determination by asking for withdrawal for life-sustaining treatment, and are required to give their informed consent to any treatment. (Angell, 51)
As argued in the preceding paragraphs, physician-assisted suicide is a humane act that helps terminally ill patients to bring a humane end to their pain and suffering by hastening their death, when all other efforts to do so have been exhausted. We also saw in this essay that all arguments against PAS do not carry sufficient weight to justify its continuing illegality. The changing values of human society and advances in medical science have greatly extended human life-spans; they make it imperative that relatively benign forms of euthanasia such patient assisted suicide may be allowed.
Angell, Marcia. "The Supreme Court and Physician-Assisted Suicide -- the Ultimate Right." The New England Journal of Medicine. 336:1. January 2, 1997: 50-53
Braddock, Clarence H. And Mark R. Tonelli. "Physician-Assisted Suicide." Ethics in Medicine: University of Washington School of Medicine. 2001. April 27, 2007. http://depts.washington.edu/bioethx/topics/pas.html
Foley, Kathleen M. "Competent care for the Dying Instead of Physician-Assisted Suicide." The New England Journal of Medicine. 336:1. January 2, 1997: 53-58
Hillyard, Daniel, and John Dombrink. Dying Right: The Death with Dignity Movement. London: Routledge, 2001.
Rogatz, Peter. "The Positive Virtues of Physician-Assisted Suicide: Physician-Assisted Suicide Is among the Most Hotly Debated Bioethical Issues of Our Time." The Humanist Nov.-Dec. 2001: 31+.
Young, Robert. "Voluntary Euthanasia." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2007. April 27, 2007 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/euthanasia-voluntary/
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