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Physician-Assisted Suicide: Ethical Or Illegal

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If you knew that your time was limited due to a terminal illness, would you choose to suffer until the time comes or end it as soon as possible? People with incurable illnesses are often in a state of hopelessness and helplessness which, in turn, leads them to believe that facing death is more ideal than continuing to suffer through life. After losing the will to live many of these patients seek physician-assisted suicide (PAS). PAS is when a physician prescribes a lethal drug for a patient who has decided to end their life. It is a very controversial topic that is deemed unethical by many, however, it should be legalized nationwide as it is a painless way to relieve the misery and avoid the unnecessary costs that terminally ill patients go through at the end of their lives. So, physician assisted suicide ethical or not?

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Those who choose to receive physician-assisted death have already exhausted all other possible treatments. Patients can only be assisted if they fit a specific criteria which require them to be “at least 18 years old. Must have a terminal illness, with death anticipated within six months”. While it is sad to think that assisted death is the only way to relieve their agony, the end result will still be an inevitable death so many choose to go with dignity. People in the later stages of their terminal illness often are reliant on others in helping doing simple tasks such as going to the bathroom, bathing, and eating which makes them feel like a burden. In Oregon, the first state to legalize PAS, the main motivations “cited for assisted suicide in Oregon are fear of losing autonomy, of being less able to engage in activities, and loss of dignity”. Patients should be able to decide their own fate. If they want to avoid elongating their suffering, go in a painless manner, and save their dignity, why would anyone want to take that right away from them? Instead of waiting for the unknown, PAS allows patients to control when and where they want to pass. In a state report from Oregon, 95% chose to die in the comfort of their own homes. The lethal drug once ingested ranges from 1 to 38 minutes to work which ensures a pain free death.

Furthermore, a terminally ill patient’s suffering not only affects themselves but also their families and loved ones. While there are other alternatives to PAS such as hospice care which is where patients receive care in the final stages of their illness, or palliative care where relief is given but does not cure the illness itself, the bills will eventually stack up. Everyday that a patient is kept alive, the hospital bills will keep increasing. This would not be a problem if a patient is financially stable, however, this is not the case for everybody.. If you put yourself in their shoes, would you want your family to feel burdened to have to pay off your bills once you are gone? Also, an investigation on the families mental state shows that while their sadness, depression, and grief about the patient did not decrease, PAS was able to help them feel more accepting and a lot more prepared for the death. Imagine yourself as a family member. As much as you want to spend time with your loved one, would you want them to keep suffering in order to be with you, or end their pain even if it means that you have to let go? If the patient requested assistance but was denied, families are more likely to feel regret that their loved one’s last wish was not granted. So not only does PAS relieved the suffering of the patients, it can also make the families feel more at ease.

A common argument that opposes the legalization of physician-assisted suicide is that it takes away the role of physicians as healers. A doctor’s main responsibility should be to keep the patient away from harm and not cause their death. The Hippocratic Oath which many physicians swear by states, “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel”. However, in patients with terminal illnesses, death will always be unavoidable. There is no medicine that can heal all of human suffering. As much as doctors can ease the pain and extend the lives of patients to some extent, their physical and mental health will slowly deteriorate until their last breath. If patients want to stop fighting for their lives, they always have the option to stop taking treatment at anytime, however, without the legalization of PAS, they will have to wait until their bodies slowly give out. Instead of viewing physicians who prescribe the drug as someone who is not able to live up to their responsibilities, see them as someone who is trying to save the patient from all of their suffering. In these type of cases, physicians should be allowed to listen and respect the choices of their patients because it is a liberty that cannot be taken away from them. It is the one final choice that they will make in their lives that can end their agony and allow them to pursue their happiness.

Despite the claims against physician-assisted suicide, it should be legalized in the United States because it can help a lot of terminally ill patients to ease their pains and save themselves and their families from future burdens. While no physician should be forced to prescribe the drug if they feel uncomfortable the option of assisted death should be available to any patient. As long as all of the precautions have been taken and the patients fit the criteria, the government should grant PAS to those who need it.  

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