PHI200: Mind and Machine
July 31, 2012
Assisted suicide is an ethical issue that not only has an effect on the individual, but it also reflects on the society where the individual lives. Euthanasia is an act of someone else ending someone’s life. Assisted suicide is the act of the individual having help in ending their own life. “Physician-assisted suicide (PAS), is slightly different than euthanasia; in using PAS, the patient is provided the means for terminating his or her life, but the patient, not the doctor, ends the life in question” (Mosser, 2010, Chp. 2.3, para. ...view middle of the document...
2.3, para. 32).
The major dispute over assisted suicide is the age-old question concerning terminating any life prematurely; rather it be abortion or the death penalty. Is it murder? Dr. Jack Kevorkian was a doctor nicknamed “Dr. Death.” His nickname came from research trying to capture the stages of death with photographs, not from assisting patients with suicide. Dr. Kevorkian felt that a “dignified death” should be everyone’s choice and it would seem as if the courts, members of juries, agreed with him to a certain degree. He was never convicted of murder until it was discovered that he was the one that actually administered the legal dose instead of the patient (“Kevorkian Biography,” n.d., para. 6).
Some arguments against assisted suicide are based on religion, yet some are not. The Hippocratic Oath, written by Hippocrates, is a combination of both. This oath is a physician’s binding document concerning patient care. Physicians are required to swear to “healing gods” and ethical standards. An excerpt translated from the original oath reads as follows: I will never give a deadly drug to anybody who asked for it, nor will I make a suggestion to this effect” (“Definition of Hippocratic Oath,” 1996-2012, para. 6). As a physician, if you swore to this oath, assisted suicide would be a violation of medical ethics. The Hippocratic Oath is possibly the most renowned reasoning against assisted suicide. When the trust between a doctor and the patient is compromised, healing becomes second priority. Trusting and believing that your doctor will do what is best for you is necessary in the healing or dying process.
Less stringent assisted suicide laws could open a whole different can of worms. Patients and/or family members may begin to take the “easy” way out. Chronically depressed patients may decide to end their lives simply because it is legal. Patients that are sick and tired of being sick and tired may throw the towel in, simply because it is legal. The value of human life would decrease (Messerli, 2012, para. 13-14).
Another argument against assisted suicide is the fact that doctors and families may “give up” too early. Another human has made the diagnosis and is subject to error (Messerli, 2012, para. 16). I know someone that was given six months to live, two years ago and is healthier now than she ever was. A patient given six months to live with a steady increase of pain may decide that assisted suicide is the more “dignified death.”
Adding religion into the equation adds more than one argument against assisted suicide. First, many religions not only prohibit murder but suicide as well (Messerli, 2012, para. 15). One of Christianity’s most well-known commandment is “Thou shall not kill.” Secondly, believing in God or any other supreme being leaves the possibility for a miracle to occur.
Arguments favoring assisted suicide are based on the theory about quick death. A quick death...