John Stuart Mill’s famous declaration reads, “The only reason for which authority should legitimately be exerted over any member of a democratic society, against its will, is to avoid harm to others. His own good, whether physical or spiritual, is not adequate. The man is sovereign over himself, over his own body and mind.” (The Rock and the Schuh). These comments make it incredibly difficult to discuss the topic of assisted suicide, considering its philosophical and legal implications.
Motivation Link: The topic of assisted suicide has been a significant cause of debate in medical practice, and has weakened patient delivery processes such as palliative care.The proponents of the assisted suicide contend that the act helps individuals with comfort out of mercy and love (Roca and Schuh). On the other hand, the opponents argue that assisted suicide does not regard the sanctity of life.
Thesis: Because of extreme controversy that arises due to the issue of assisted suicide, it is important to consider both the moral and legal implications of the act so as to establish a middle ground.
Constructs of assisted suicide
The society conceives suicide irrational and morally wrong
Communities have dismissed suicidal behavior on the basis that it is unreasonable to deliberately end one’s own life
There is no shame or controversy in condemning suicidal behavior
It is a general conviction that the society has a duty towards the suicidal to engage them in rational capacities and intervene in their suicide plans
However, the case of assisted suicide has created a deep contention.
Assisted suicide is allegedly justifiable because it enhances the well-ness of human beings
The idea of assisted suicide in medical practice became widespread through the assertion that it allows patients with terminal illnesses to die with dignity (Kemp)
Assisted suicide allows people with terminal conditions to die with dignity
Caregiver, out of mercy and out of love, will ask physicians to euthanize their patients to end their mystery (Roca and Schuh)
States in the US join countries like the Netherlands to legalize assisted suicide despite heated debates
State of Oregon passed the Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (DWDA) in 1997 to allow physicians to assist terminally ill patients to have suicide
DWDA allows terminally-ill adult Oregonians to obtain and use prescriptions from their physicians for self-administered, lethal doses of medications
In 2016 alone, 133 persons had died from ingesting the medications prescribed under the Death With Dignity Act (The Oregon Public Health Division)
The DWDA justifies assisted suicide
Is physician-assisted suicide better than the unconventional suicide?
Physician-assisted suicide differs from the dissenting suicide because it has the backing of a controlling legal authority (CNN Library)
Assisted suicide is only available to persons who are 18 years and older, able to make and communicate health care decisions and are diagnosed with terminal illness that will lead to death in six months (Oregon Public Health)
DWDA does not constitute suicide, mercy killing or homicide under the law
Thus, there is a claim that physician‐assisted suicide should be legal and available to those how choose to use it” (Pence)
However, there are counter arguments to this claim
Death with Dignity Act prohibits euthanasia, where a physician or other person directly administers a medication to end another’s life (Oregon Public Health)
But where do we draw the line?
Assisted suicide undermines the value of life and does not respect the dignity of human life (Kemp)
Transition: Having discussed about the theories of assisted suicide, I am going to highlight common rhetoric that is used with respect to the assisted suicide
Common rhetoric with respect to assisted suicide
Assisted suicide fundamentally changes medical practice and delivery systems such as palliative care and changes our perception of the disabled, elderly, and poor in the society (Anderson)
Assisted suicide discriminates the poor and persons living with disabilities (Ana)
Patients may actually be coerced to apply for assisted suicide if they feel that they may not be able to sustain the cost of their medication.
It changes the doctor-patient relationship because it shows lack of compassion
Assisted suicide seems to target the disabled, elderly, and poor in the society
However, statistics from The Oregon Public Health Division refute this claim
According to Oregon Health Authority, about 96.2% of the decedents were whites
Around 50% of the people that ingested lethal medical through the help of a physician were well-educate and had at a bachelor’s degree
Transition: Now, I am going to examine the implications of this rhetoric in medical practice.
Assisted suicide has become so common in hospitals that vulnerable groups such as the disabled, elderly, and poor in the society could be targeted
Assisted suicide fundamentally changes patient-physician relationship (Anderson)
The allegation that physicians that practice in countries that have legalized assisted suicide do not provide unequivocal support and care to their patients is troubling
Assisted suicide has also undermined healthcare reforms
Evidence: The Huffington Post reported that “cancer patients Barbara Wagner and Randy Stroup were denied coverage of their chemotherapy prescribed by their doctor but were informed by their health care provider, Oregon’s state run health plan, that it would pay for their assisted suicide.” (Ana)
It beats logic that the state offered assisted suicide yet declined to cover medical expenses
We have to question and critically examine some of these claims that health institutions use to deny deserving patients health insurance so as to increase their profitability
Review Statement: The topic of assisted suicide is a extremely controversial. Assisted suicide is full of intense ethical questions regarding life and autonomy (Kemp). Therefore, more discussion and consideration in terms of moral and legal obligation is critical to establish a middle ground in responding to the controversial issue (Roca and Schuh).
For more information the following links are relevant:
To examine whether suicide is morally admissible the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides deep insights: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/#HigHisTho
For chronology and interesting facts on assisted suicide follow this link https://www.deathwithdignity.org/assisted-dying-chronology/
Acton, Ana. “The Progressive Case against Assisted Suicide.” The Huffington Post. August 4, 2014. Web
Anderson, Ryan T. “Assisted Suicide Corrupts Medicine.” Chicago Tribute. 2016. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.
CNN Library. “Physician-Assisted Suicide Fast Facts.” CNN. 2017. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.
Moore, Brooke N, and Parker Richard. Critical Thinking (12th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2016. Print
Oregon Public Health. “Death with Dignity Act Requirements.” oregon.gov. 2017. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.
Pence, E. Medical ethics: Accounts of ground-breaking cases. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print
Roca, Octavio, and Mathew Schuh. An Examined Life: Critical Thinking And Ethics Today. New York: Pearson Publisher, 2014. Print.
The Oregon Public Health Division. “Oregon Death with Dignity Act: Data summary 2016.” oregon.gov. 2017. Web. 10 Aug. 2017.