Is Physician-Assisted Suicide A Solution? Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is a very important issue. It is also important to understand the terms and distinction between the varying degrees to which a person can be involved in hastening the death of a terminally ill individual. Euthanasia, a word that is often associated with physician assisted suicide, means the act or practice of killing for reasons of mercy.
Assisted suicide takes place when a dying person who wishes to precipitate death, requests help in carrying out the act. In euthanasia, the dying patients may or may not be aware of what is happening to them and may or may not have requested to die. In an assisted suicide, the terminally ill person wants to die and has specifically asked for help. Physician-assisted suicide occurs when the individual assisting in the suicide is a doctor rather than a friend or family member. Because doctors are the people most familiar with their patients' medical condition and have knowledge of and access to the necessary means to cause certain death, terminally ill patients who have made the decision to end their lives often turn to their physicians for advice. However, studies indicate that many physicians are unwilling to provide their assistance in suicide because it conflicts with their ethical beliefs and because it is illegal.
The legalization of PAS is a sensitive, yet complicated, topic which is becoming more and more popular with America's aging population and the terminally ill patients. PAS is a social issue which is here to stay. The legalization of PAS is continually being debated all over the United States and offers a potential for abuse. In 1994, PAS laws of Washington and New York were challenged in federal court and declared unconstitutional. Physician assisted suicide should not be legalized in any state. As society must understand, PAS is challenged for several reasons.
First of all, the "Right-To-Die" group and the Hemlock Society contend that terminally ill individuals have the right to end their own lives in some instances, and because PAS is illegal, many patients are unable to get the help necessary to terminate their lives and must involuntarily endure the extreme pain and suffering of their diseases. Others argue that PAS must be legalized for purposes of regulation. They contend that in spite of current law, the practice is conducted regularly in secrecy, therefore the potential for abuse already exists. Legalization with medical record documentation and reporting requirements will enable authorities to regulate the practice and guard against abuses while punishing the real offenders. Also, supporters strongly suggest that laws banning PAS do not save lives, but rather, they cruelly prolong deaths.
Despite the reasons which lead some to believe PAS should be a viable alternative, it should not be legalized. First of all, one reason to oppose the legalization of PAS laws is that it is morally wrong. No person has the right to assist in the taking of other's lives. Only God has the power for terminating human life. Therefore, those who believe in God know that they must not prevent their destinies by ending their lives because if one believes in God then they know that He will keep one safe in his arms for all time.
Furthermore, a second reason to oppose physician assisted suicide is because it will pervert the medical profession. Not only will the doctor-patient relationship be severely damaged, but the image of doctors as healers be transformed. People will view them as technical dispensers of death. The Hippocratic Oath which is the traditional standard pledge of those in medicine expressly prohibits assisted suicide, stating: "I will not give poison to anyone though asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a plan" (Foster n. p.
). So, it seems fair to say that Hippocrates at least implicitly accepted the idea of a distinction between killing and allowing to die. Jack Kevorkian, "Doctor Death" is a good example of a technical dispenser of death. He is the most famous physician on the planet who makes a living by helping others commit suicide (Alper n. p. ). If PAS is legalized then there will be more "Doctor Deaths" in this world, which certainly is not necessary.
Ultimately, the most powerful reason to oppose PAS is that since there is great potential for abuse, it will lead to the deaths of patients who do not really wish to die. For example, those who oppose PAS contend that influential doctors or family members, unrestricted by law, may persuade patients to choose death, or greedy insurance companies may pressure doctors to control insurance costs by ending lives. In addition, they worry that legalized PAS would be the first step down the "slippery slope" (Blair n. p. ), which would lead to widespread, unregulated deaths of individuals who society considers undesirable, such as the insane, the mentally deficient, the elderly, and those of less than average intelligence. In conclusion, all should firmly believe that physician assisted suicide should not be legalized in any state.
Although it is legalized in Oregon it is not wise for any other state to follow that example. By now, all should strongly believe the growing public support for PAS still remains a very dangerous trend. The role of our physician is that of a healer, not a killer. It must be understood that in some cases the only way to relieve someone from their pain is to let them go. On the contrary, each human life has an intrinsic value that must be respected and revered. It is immoral to intentionally end a life.
For those who are believers in God know that he has given us the most powerful gift on earth, the gift of life. Only He has the power to take it away from us. Besides God, the only truth on earth is that there are only two things stronger than all the armies of the world and they are kindness and hope..