AP English Language and Composition
A Right to Death?
The right to kill someone as long as you have their consent; that sounds like part of a demented horror film or part of a “would you ever” type question. Well it is very real today in America. In America one of the most serious and controversial topics in medicine is physician-assisted suicide. Physician assisted suicide is where a physician gets the consent to end the life of a terminally ill patient. It has been legalized in countries all over the world such as France, Germany, Denmark, Colombia, and even Canada. Even in the states of Oregon, Montana, and Vermont physician-assisted suicide is legal (Humphry). Yet it still isn’t legalized completely in America. It is understandable as it may sound very unethical and cruel at first, but physician-assisted suicide is very misunderstood and there is already a built-in prejudice against it. Asides from that, there is also a strong following and support for physician-assisted suicide. There is a strong standstill and split on the use of physician-assisted suicide and America as whole isn’t ready to accept physician-assisted suicide. Even though the country as a whole isn’t ready to accept it, physician assisted suicide should be accepted in the United States because it is a viable way to end suffering of terminally-ill patient and ease them into death as they have their own patient’s rights that doctors should abide by.
Many people believe that physician assisted suicide is unethical and there are many other alternatives to ease the pain of patients. It may be true that there are other alternatives, but physician-assisted suicide should be a last-resort type of option that needs to be evaluated very heavily before it is even implemented on a patient. People may believe physician assisted suicide is unethical, but it is an option for easing the pain of patients. What course of action should be taken while a loved one is suffering and wrenching in pain, and they can’t get any better and they don’t even enjoy their life anymore; a terminally-ill patients quality of life decreases greatly as each day they go through phases of serious pain and can’t really do anything about it. Along with that a patient has their own rights to life and they have their own to not suffer. It is a doctor’s duty to attend to their patient and make them better, and if a patient asks for the physician to end their life the doctor should contemplate that option. In Oregon, Montana, and Vermont there haven’t been any quarrels or mistakes; physician-assisted suicide has worked pretty well.
One of the biggest things that are granted to a patient is their own autonomy. A patient has the right to decide what someone will do or won’t do to their body; it is their own body and they have their own verdict on what would be done. If we as a society can recognize a patient’s autonomy, why wouldn’t a physician be allowed to recognize it? If patients seek such help, it is cruel to leave them to fend for themselves, weighing options that are both traumatic and uncertain, when assistance could be made available. Along with that, the majority of doctors have received a request for physician assisted suicide, 57% to be exact (Night). Now it doesn’t go to say that if a patient asks for it, the doctor should administer the lethal drug. First the doctor needs to contemplate it, talk with his assistants and superiors, determine how conscious the patient was when they made their request, and if there are no other options to reduce pain it would be viable for the physician to administer a lethal dose of medicine to the patient.
Along with patient autonomy, physicians have their own duties as a physician. Physicians need to do their best they can to make a patient feel better. Now sometimes that may be hard to do. A patient that is terminally ill is not getting any better and doesn’t have many years to live. A physician needs to be aggressive with responding to patients’ desires near the end of their life (American Medical Association). Along with that thought, there are 2 principles by which the medical field abides by. Physicians have an obligation to relieve pain and suffering and to promote the dignity of dying patients in their care, while the principle of patient bodily integrity requires that physicians must respect patients’ competent decisions to forgo life-sustaining treatment (Night). Now if a physician needs to respect the patients’ and their decisions that needs to be recognized. A physician also needs to relieve pain of patients and do their best to help their quality of life if they can’t heal them, but there are certain complications. A physician first needs to exhaust all possible options to help a patient with their deteriorating condition, but the physician needs to respect a patients desires. A physician cannot blatantly disregard a patient’s desire to end their life, if no other measures to ease their pain work. Now with a physician performing what the patient asks, the physician needs to exhaust all other opportunities and carefully analyze a patients desire to end their own life. A physician can’t prescribe a lethal drug to the patient because they are feeling sad or unhappy. A case where physician assisted suicide is taken too far is the case in Netherlands. A hermaphrodite was unhappy with their appearance and botched surgery so they had a doctor prescribe them lethal medication. That is a case where power and society’s prejudice can corrupt and result in inhumane decisions.
Let Oregon, Montana, Vermont, and other advanced and industrialized countries serve as an example; physician assisted suicide can work very well. If certain laws and protocols surrounding physician-assisted suicide can be administered properly it can be an efficient way to relieve pain of terminally-ill patients. For example the Death with Dignity Act implanted in Oregon has had strict protocols and laws concerning physician assisted suicide. The goal was to allow only a competent, terminally ill adult patient, with a prognosis of six months or less to live, to obtain prescription medications to hasten his or her death, within narrow, tightly defined circumstances (Stutsman). With a competent patient asking for the physician to end their life, many precautions are evaluated first. The patient first needs to make two oral requests and one written request, and then the prescribing and consulting physicians need to determine if the patient is capable and if the patient is fully sane. If the patient isn’t sane therapy will be administered. Along with the patient’s sanity the physicians then need to make the patient aware of all other options of patient care before prescribing the lethal medication (Oregon Public Health Division). It’s clear that physician-assisted suicide in Oregon is last-resort option that takes a lot of contemplating and preemptive measures. Due to that it has become an effective form of relieving pain of terminally-ill patient as a last resort and has not been used uncontrollably. In 2012, a physician administered a lethal drug to 115 terminally ill patients and only 77 took. That equates to 0.2% of Oregon’s total deaths. Along with that, the prescribed lethal medication was administered under tight circumstances as the top three reason patients even asked for the physicians to end their life was due to : loss of autonomy, decreasing ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable, and loss of dignity (Oregon Public Health Division).
Lastly, physician-assisted suicide can prevent a certain hazard for the patients themselves and the caregivers. Some patients may want their suffering to be over so desperately that they may try to kill themselves naturally if they aren’t prescribed any lethal medication. Now this is very extreme, but it is a precaution that needs to be accounted for as it can result in ghastly consequences that could result in more harm to the patient or even the caregivers. As stated earlier, 57% of physicians have been confronted by patients, asking them to end their life. Now that is a great amount of patients, but the problem is that not all those patients get what they want. What happens from there can result badly for patients or even the physicians and nurses. Most patients will be denied and given other treatments such as morphine to reduce pain, or hospice treatment to improve life quality, but some patients won’t be happy. There is a possibility that some patients may try to kill themselves without the help of a doctor. When that happens that could lead to horrible consequences that could injure others or even mentally scar anyone who witnesses it. A patient killing themselves on their own is just a precaution that needs to be accounted for and the physician assisted suicide, as a last resort, can help account for it.
Physician assisted suicide presents another viable option to relieving patient suffering in the ever-evolving modern society of American society. As patients are terminally-ill and their deteriorating condition won’t get any better, it is best to exhaust all options to help increase their quality of life and minimize their agonizing pain. If no other options would work a physician assisted suicide is a viable option to be considered and analyzed very strictly. Physician assisted suicide would work best as a last resort option and if it were administered under strict circumstances. It has worked well in other states in the US such as Oregon and has been used minimally, just as a last-resort option. Patients have a right to their own autonomy and a right to their own health and body. Along with that a physician has the responsibility to make patients feel better and care for them and take into account and respect certain desires of patients. If a patient is in intolerable pain and feels a loss of dignity and low quality of life, physician assisted suicide can play a vital role in helping ease patients into death and allowing them to die peacefully.
American Medical Association. "Physician-Assisted Suicide." American Medical Association. American Medical Association, 23 Apr. 2009. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. .
Humphry, Derek. "Assisted Suicide Laws Around the World - Assisted Suicide." Assisted Suicide - Information on right-to-die and euthanasia laws and history. Euthanasia Research and Guidance Organization, 7 Dec. 2007. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Night, Sara. "Important Facts About Physician Assisted Suicide." Endlink. Endlink, 13 May 2008. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.
Oregon Public Health Division. "Death with Dignity Act Requirements." Oregon Health Authority. Oregon Health Authority, 27 July 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Oregon Public Health Division. "Oregon's Death With Dignity Act." Oregon Health Authority. Oregon Health Authority, 13 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.
Stutsman, Eli. "Twenty Years of Living with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act | Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division." American Bar Association. ABA, 12 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 Oct. 2013.