Physician-assisted suicide

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Should physician-assisted suicide be allowed in certain cases, such as on patients with advanced terminal diseases, but not in other cases?

Introduction:

Hippocratic Oath requires that physicians strive to help in saving lives (Pappas, 2012). The topic of physician-assisted suicide has been debated over centuries, specifically on the element of the right of an individual to death in circumstances that pose serious and painful terminal diseases such as cancer and progressive heart illness. Since the case of Washington vs. Glucksberg (1997), debate on physician-assisted suicide has persisted with the legality and morality of this issue become a subject of the divide that shapes the debate (Birnbacher & Dahl, 2008). According to Hawkins (2002), physician-assisted suicide is the process in which an individual takes their life willingly, with the assistance of the physician using harmful or deadly drugs. These drugs are provided to the patient by the doctor after the patient willingly decided to end his/her life. The patient then self-administers the drugs on themselves after signing a document stating their right to die.

Patients with advanced terminal diseases are subjected to a lot of pain and suffering (Pappas, 2012). Physician-assisted suicides assist in the reduction of patients’ pain and suffering. According to Hawkins (2002), some people willingly decide to die to reduce the financial constraints that their families have to incur throughout the treatment process. Emotional and physical pains felt by the families, and the patients among other factors also can lead to the decision of physician-assisted suicide (Birnbacher & Dahl, 2008). However, due to social, ethical, cultural and religion issues, this issue has brought about the debate over the right of a person to die. My main focus is to address the issue of whether patients with advanced terminal diseases should have a right to decide on whether to perform a physician-assisted suicide due to the suffering they undergo which is different from other patients without advanced terminal diseases.

Position Statement:

Each human being has the right to life, and the right to die should only be permitted if there is no other hope for an effective treatment to discontinue the pain and suffering of the patient. The patient should willingly request for assistance to take their lives.

Supporting Reason:

Since the introduction of medicines, medicinal choices or decisions have been personal, and people seek medical support for various reasons. A person’s right to die has been left to the natural causes of death, and in so many nations, all citizens have the right to life. Advanced terminal diseases have been subjecting people to pains, sufferings and financial constraints (Pappas, 2012). Hawkins (2002) state that most of these advanced terminal diseases have no cure and the patient, as well as the physician, understand that the disease will eventually take their lives. Therefore, it is essential that the patient be given the right to decide whether to continue suffering or to die in dignity. If a patient willingly asks the doctor to assist in taking their life for the reasons associated with the pain, suffering, and costs of advanced terminal diseases, the physician can honor their decision (Pappas, 2012).

Opposing Reason:

The right of a person to die is exclusively left on the natural causes (Pappas, 2012). According to Kopelman & Ville (2002), the Hippocratic Oath does not allow physicians to assist patients in taking their lives. In contrary, it expects the doctors to do all they can to protect lives. Many religions are also opposed to the idea of death through suicide.

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  1. Birnbacher, D., & Dahl, E. (2008). Giving death a helping hand: Physician-assisted suicide and public policy: an international perspective. Dordrecht: Springer.
  2. Hawkins, G. (2002). Physician-assisted suicide. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press.
  3. Kopelman, L., & Ville, K. (2002). Physician-assisted suicide: What are the issues? Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.
  4. Pappas, D. (2012). The euthanasia/assisted-suicide debate. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.
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