Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia
MHS 4703- Tuesday’s and Thursday’s 12:30 PM-1:45 PM
April 30, 2018
Word Count- 1,462
“Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia have been profound ethical issues confronting doctors since the birth of Western medication, more than 2,000 years ago” (Emanuel). Physician-assisted suicide is defined as voluntary, intentional termination of one’s own life, that results from a self-administered lethal dose of a medication that has been prescribed by a physician and prescribed specifically for termination of life (Acker ; Mitchell, 2015). Euthanasia is defined as the intentional termination of a hopelessly sick or injured individual’s life, that results from either; specific actions leading to death, termination on life-sustaining treatment, a voluntary consent from the patient, or consent is given on behalf of others who are unable to make decisions on his or her own. In addition, euthanasia is the active practice of at least one other person who either administers the death, helps cause the death, or directly removes what is sustaining the life of the individual (Frederich & Tischauser, 2013). With various benefits and disadvantages that arise from the ethical issue of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, the decision should ultimately be the individual’s and/or, his or her family’s choice whether to terminate one’s life through physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia or not.
Physician-assisted suicide is associated with many positives. First, physician-assisted suicide prevents suffering in individuals. The process itself is not painful and it allows individuals to escape the pain and suffering they are experiencing. Second, physician-assisted suicide gives a patient and/or his or her family a choice on whether to endure the pain and suffering or have the opportunity to end one’s life, to end the suffering. Not to mention, the choice being given to live or die allows an individual the chance to be able to die with dignity instead of dying a deteriorated version of one’s own self. With, physician-assisted suicide being a choice, it also gives families another option for individuals who are on life support, comatose, unconscious and has no chance of recovery. In addition, many times patients decided to take his or her own lives and go through a traumatic experience, physician-assisted suicide reduces the chance of one taking his or her own life and reducing themselves, his or her family and friends from the traumatic event of taking his or her own life by other means. Additionally, the chances of having the ability to donate organs are increased with physician-assisted suicide. Many individuals with a terminal illness experience organ damage and even failure which decreases the likely hood of his or her organs being able to help save another life. Besides having the ability to save another’s life with possible organ transplant, physician-assisted suicide can save other lives due to it saving resources and time. Although this cannot be significant in relation to life, physician-assisted suicide can result in more lives saved. Medical personnel who tend to spend much time with terminally ill individuals will have the availability to work with, save and cure other individuals instead of addressing and using medical resources on individuals who are unable to be helped. Finally, physician-assisted suicide decreases the amount of money spent on medical conditions and care which saves the individual’s family the “financial meltdown” that results from terminal illness and long-term care (“13 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide”, 2015).
Although there are many positives there are also negatives that are associated with physician-assisted suicide. Four negatives associated with physician-assisted suicide are first, it decreases the importance of life. In fact, that is not the case, life is seen still just as important but constantly being in unbearable pain or unable to do anything on your own is not really living. Secondly, physician-assisted suicide can cause individuals to lose hope in situations due to the possibility of neglected chances for recovery. This again is not the case, there are rules and regulations for Physician-assisted suicide and requires physician-assisted suicide only be conducted as a last resort. Third, physician-assisted suicide is unethical and immoral due to the Hippocratic Oath which each doctor must take before practicing medicine (“13 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide”, 2015). The Hippocratic oath is “One of the oldest binding documents in history, … written by Hippocrates” (“Medical Definition of Hippocratic Oath”). and … it states that physicians are “… to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on” (“Medical Definition of Hippocratic Oath”). Physician-assisted suicide goes against this oath but in a way does not. Physician-assisted suicide would be done only when it is right or best for the patient (“13 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide”, 2015). Finally, physician-assisted suicide gives an immense amount of power to doctors to choose between life and death for an individual while having “undue power … a physician … may get to decide … life or death for a patient, … especially in cases where patients cannot decide for themselves” (“13 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide”, 2015). On one hand this gives doctors too much power and this may be true but, on the other hand, it is still the patients choice which results in the physician only having power after consent, just like all other care.
On the other hand, there are three main positives associated with euthanasia. First, terminally ill individual’s experience an endless number of various amounts of pain, euthanasia can shorten the suffering that this pain causes. Second, euthanasia gives the opportunity to prepare for and cope with the death of the individual. Death can be traumatic and is a stressful event, euthanasia gives the opportunity to choose a day in which the individual will die, and this allows them and his or her family to mentally prepare for the outcome of death. Finally; coupled with the mental preparation of the death of the individual, euthanasia gives people the power to choose where his or her life is going to go and the path that it will take. More often than not, the path that one’s life is taking seems to be hopeless and feels as if there are no options, allowing individuals to choose the path they will take gives them back the power in his or her life (“6 Euthanasia Pros and Cons”, 2015).
Consequently, there are four main negatives associated with euthanasia. First, it is not unheard of for a terminal illness to be maintained and recovered from. When an individual decides to choose euthanasia as the path his or her life will take, they give up the possibility of living a healthy life again. Yet this is not to mention the fact the science has improved immensely through the years, most who suffer from terminally illness never get to see the management or recovery of his or her illness due to science not getting that far in his or her lifetime. Next, there are many issues that arise with process euthanasia both morally and religiously. The process of euthanasia is seen religiously as interfering with the natural order of the way of life but not everyone practices religion, therefore not allowing euthanasia because of religious issues would be going against the freedom of religion to practice or not to practice any religion. Likewise, the process is seen morally wrong due to the act of killing being wrong. Although the physician is not actually killing the patient, they are successfully performing a medical procedure. Lastly, the Hippocratic Oath that all medical professionals are required to take before they can practice medicine. Euthanasia goes against this oath (“6 Euthanasia Pros and Cons”, 2015). However, as already stated in regard to physician-assisted suicide, it is still the patient’s choice, which results in the physicians only having power after consent, just like all other care.
In conclusion, there are many positives and negatives for both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Positives of both physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia are they prevent suffering and gives an individual the choice whether to live or die. Positives of physician-assisted suicide also include positives such as it allows individuals to die with dignity, preserve organs, decrease suicide, saves resources and time, and decreases medical cost. Euthanasia positives also include morally preparing people and families for the death of the individual. Disadvantages of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia both include taking away hopes of the situation and that it is immoral, unethical and goes against the Hippocratic Oath. Disadvantages of physician-assisted suicide also include it devalues life and gives doctors to much power. Disadvantages of euthanasia also include moral and religious issues. With various benefits and disadvantages that arise from the ethical issue of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, the decision should ultimately be the individual’s and/or, his or her family’s choice whether to terminate one’s life through physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia or not.
6 Euthanasia Pros and Cons. (2015, December 30). Retrieved from https://vgavirginia.org/6-euthanasia-pros-and-cons13 Pros and Cons of Legalizing Physician-Assisted Suicide. (2015, December 29). Retrieved from https://vgavirginia.org/13-pros-and-cons-of-legalizing-physician-assisted-suicideAcker, S., ; Mitchell, N. (2015). Doctor-assisted suicide. Salem Press Encyclopedia Of Health.
Emanuel, E. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://quotefancy.com/quote/1176500/Ezekiel-Emanuel-Physician-assisted-suicide-and-euthanasia-have-been-profound-ethicalFrederich, K. P., ; Tischauser, L. P. (2013). Euthanasia. Magill’s Medical Guide (Online Edition).
Medical Definition of Hippocratic Oath. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=20909