Euthanasiaand Physician-Assisted Suicide
Doctorsand health care workers follow a professional code of ethics in theprovision of service and expertise to patients. However, there aresituations that require such medical experts to make tough decisionsin relation to the interests of patients against theirprofessionalism. This discussion seeks to explore the ethics anddebate surrounding euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Inaddition, the discussion will comment on the case for and against thetwo medical practices in relation to the ethics of the medicalpractitioners as well as the interests of patients and pressuregroups.
Euthanasiais the medical practice of terminating a person’s life as a way ofending pain and suffering. There has been a global debate on whethereuthanasia should be legalized or should not be legalized. The impactand the extent of the debate vary in different countries anddepending on their cultural, social and political perspective. As aconsequence, the laws that regulate euthanasia are different in eachcountry. However, the global perspective of euthanasia is the samedue to the commonality of the medical significance of the practice.All over the world, the practice involves ending the life of apatient in order to end his or her suffering.
Similarly,physician-assisted suicide attracts a debate on the ethics behind thepractice and the objective to be achieved. Physician assisted suicideis the practice of aiding a patient to terminate his or her own lifefor reasons based on the patient (McDougalland Gorman 7). In this practice, the doctor knowingly and intentionally helps thepatient with all the assistance he or she need to commit suicide,including counseling assistance. The practice is mostly done byproviding the means of causing death, such as pills or medicine.
Physicianassisted suicide and euthanesia are not the same even though they arecommonly confused for each other. Unlike the euthanasia where thedoctor terminates the life of a patient, physician-assisted suicideinvolves the doctor as an aid. The responsibility of killing thepatient lies with the doctor in the case of euthanasia, while theresponsibility of death lies with the patient in Physician-assistedsuicide. Similarly, the decision to kill the patient, is made by thepatient in euthanasia, while the same is made by the patient in thecase for patient-assisted suicide (MacKinnon 90).However, this discussion will explore the ethics behind the twomethods together since they involve unnatural termination ofpatients’ life.
Casefor Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide
Peoplewho support the two medical practices argue that the practices arethe only way to help people die with dignity. By death with dignity,they mean that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide ends thelife of a patient without extreme pains and suffering. According toMacKinnon(93), euthanasia andphysician-assisted suicide are solutions to patients seeking a way toend the suffering they may be suffering. One of the situations thatcauses for high level of pain and suffering is terminal sicknessessuch as cancer and high level fractures. Ethically, some doctors haveargued that it is right to feel mercy for the patients and terminatetheir suffering through mercy killing. Therefore, euthanasia andphysician-assisted suicide are considered to serve the interests ofthe patient by ending the suffering.
Anothercase for physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia is that thepractices are ethical because they terminate the life of patients whoare certain of their death. According to McDougalland Gorman (12), most of thepatients who request for physician-assisted suicide has priorknowledge of their impending death especially the patients who sufferterminal illnesses. Through physician assisted suicide, thesepatients relieve the burden of thinking how their death will occur.By ending their life, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide isseen as an ethical way of giving them personal relief from thepsychological and physical pain for them. In addition, euthanasia orthe use of physician-assisted suicide relieves the emotional pain forrelatives of affected patients.
Anothercase for that euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide give patientssome options for patients to die with dignity. There are legislationsthat have been passed to protect this dignity. For instance, thepassing of Death with Dignity Act legalized competent termination ofadult patients in Oregon (DWD 1). The act makes it acceptable forOregon State residents to have a physician assisted suicide in caseof unbearable suffering or extremes of terminal illness. This actgives patients the eligibility to make two written and oral requestsand wait for 15 days (DWD 1). In addition, the act demands theconsulting physician to confirm the prognosis and diagnosis as asituation worth the request for death. This means that the twomedical practices are helpful because they leave the patient withsome dignity of dying without facing dehumanization by extreme levelsof suffering.
Ethically,the two medical practices should be practiced in deserving situationsto prevent the use of other unconventional methods of death. Theseother methods of suicide by patients may sometimes lead to more pain,suffering, emotional torture and lowers dignity. In addition, thepersonal methods of suicide such as taking pesticides may not besuccessful, leading to complications and suffering. The option forphysician-assisted suicide gives patients the medical assistance todie with integrity and in the hospital (McDougalland Gorman 23). If patients aredenied the opportunity for physician assisted suicide, they use otheroptions that lead to the consequences dying without holding theirdignity. For instance, some of the methods used include drowningthemselves, taking of inappropriate poisonous substances or suffocatethemselves in yearning for a quick death. To avoid the inhumanoptions, the two medical practices would assist the patients, medicalpractitioners and the relatives.
Caseagainst euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide
Opponentsof euthanasia as well as for physician-assisted suicide views them aspractices that shift the role of doctors from healers into killers.Gholipour (1)arguesthat, allowing doctors to terminate a patient’s life will translatethe role of a doctor to a non conventional killer. This means thatthe main role of the doctor is changed by allowing him to assist toend the life he should be saving. According to Meier (3), doctorsshould be prohibited from doing what seems to be a contradiction tothe commitment that he or she originally committed to healing andprotecting life.
Themain opponents of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide arereligious organizations and social rights groups. According to thesegroups, God is the only being that gives life and the only one withthe right to take life away. Therefore, they argue that the practiceof euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is a way of replacingGod with the doctor, which is Unreligious and evil. This is becausethe option of killing or not is not placed under any man but by God.Therefore, euthanasia or even the practice of physician-assistedsuicide is seen as murder, which is against God.
Similarly,euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide is seen as any other act ofkilling a human being. Opponents argue that euthanasia andphysician-assisted suicide does not give nature a chance to allow thehealing process to take place, if it the patient was meant to heal.According to people who are opposed to the two practices, euthanasiainvolves termination of life of a person, just like any other murderor manslaughter (McDougalland Gorman 31). According toopponents, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide involves the useof artificial means of causing death instead of allowing nature totake its course. This is directs the thinking that euthanasia andphysician assisted suicide are immoral, ungodly, Unreligious andunethical.
Theopinion of whether euthanasia and the practice of physician-assistedsuicide are ethical depends on the perspective of a person and thecontextual circumstances that relate to an individual. While doctorswill argue for euthanasia, some patients would rather feel the painrather than ask for death or physician-assisted suicide. At the sametime, religious organizations view the practices of their religionwhile medics base their view on the suffering and pain experienced bypatients. In this regard, people may view the situations that callfor euthanasia and physician assisted suicide as death, but doctorsview as a chance for people to die with dignity.
Whileeuthanasia and physician assisted are different in practice, the tworesults to the same result of terminating the life of a patient usingmedical assistance. Euthanasia and the practice of physician assistedsuicide are a worthy alternative of allowing people to die withdignity by ending the pain and suffering of patients. At the sametime, euthanasia and physician assisted suicide allows people who arecertainty of death and face the pains of terminal illnesses to choosedeath and request physician-assisted suicide. Despite thecounterarguments, it is the honest opinion of this paper thateuthanasia and physician assisted suicide are medically ethical ifnot abused and only practiced in deserving situations.
Deathwith Dignity, DWD, 2014.Deathwith Dignity: the Laws & How to Access Them.RetrievedFrom,<http://www.deathwithdignity.org/access-acts>November14, 2014Gholipour,B. (2013). Physician-AssistedSuicide: Poll Shows Divide Among Experts.RetrievedFrom,http://www.livescience.com/39571-physician-assisted-suicide-poll.html>November14, 2014MacKinnon,Barbara. Ethics:Theory and Contemporary Issues, Concise Edition. Stamford:Cengage Learning, 2012, Print
McDougall,Jennifer and Gorman, Martha. Euthanasia: A Reference Handbook. SantaBarbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2008, Print
Meier,D. E. et al. (1998). ANational Survey of Physician-Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia intheUnited States.Retrieved From,<http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199804233381706#t=article>November 15, 2014