Assisted suicide is defined as an action in which an individual voluntarily assists another individual to cause his or her own death. On the one hand, by assisted, it is meant that one provides the means to end someone’s life, for example, certain equipment or drugs or some activities. Euthanasia, on the other hand, refers to the situation in which an individual ends the life of another one with the aim of relieving suffering and pain. In other words, it is ending of the life by a doctor upon request by a patient. The debate concerning the legal, moral and religious perceptions of suicide as well as the right to life and death are still ongoing. These actions may be illegal or legal depending on the jurisdiction (Egendorf 2002).
In assisted suicide, most deaths do not occur immediately after a physician carries out a medical intervention, which would then ease a patient into death. It is observed that a medication causes a reduction in respiration and other fundamental functions. This would then lead into a gradual and painless death. The act of assisted suicide, also sometimes referred to as mercy killings, assumes that the patient is dying and suffering severely and is asking for urgent relief. There is a thin line, though, between assisted suicide, euthanasia, and murder, depending on whether the person is of sound mind or lacking in judgment (Gorsuch 2006).
Every adult in a competent state of mind has the irrefutable right to die in a way and a time of their own choice i.e., personal liberty. The way people deal with death depends on their health, living conditions, and ethics. For example, some physicians try to avoid carrying out assisted suicide due to their ethics and/ or legal factors. In some countries, the physician may take assisted suicide as murder or homicide. In other countries, it is not acceptable to prosecute anyone for assisted suicide (Egendorf 2002). Provoked and persuaded self-kill should be punished, as the person in this case is not making the choice of death with a clear mind.
However, only a person in pain is able to make the choice concerning his or her life. In countries such as Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and some states in the United States of America have made medically assisted suicide legal. Ways people can choose to aid in hastening death include through terminal sedation, withdrawing life sustaining treatments, dehydration, and self-starvation, which are accompanied by analgesic care. A dying individual’s request should be respected contrary to the views on the process of dying expressed. It is argued that we have an obligation to lessen the pain and suffering of other individuals upon their request. The cases for and against assisted suicide or death are extremely strong (Battin, Rhodes & Silvers 2000).
Arguments for Assisted Suicide:
In support and justification of assisted suicide, one can argue that this action respects the autonomy that means that the circumstances and time of death is personal. Thus, a person of stable mind should have a right to choose the manner and time to die. Assisted suicide, also known as physician aid in dying, is supported by the justice system. It states that terminally ill patients have the right to reject treatment, which will delay their deaths. Thus, physicians should allow assisted death as it is the patient’s will to hasten his or her death. Another reason to carry out an assisted suicide is compassion. Loss of functional capabilities, sense of self, loss of independence and dignity are just but a few forms of suffering patients undergo. It is not constantly possible to alleviate this suffering and pain.
Therefore, assisted suicide is a compassionate way to end the suffering (Long 2005). Assisted suicide should be allowable I certain cases as prohibiting them may go against personal liberty. Assisted suicide involves both parties’ participation in a well-informed agreement process from the discussion of available treatment options and outcomes, and then the patient decides on what to do.
Arguments against Assisted Suicide:
Arguments that are against assisted suicide include maintaining the sanctity of life; traditions and religious views are against suicide or assistance in death. This thus means that assisted suicide is morally wrong, as it does not uphold the sanctity of life. There is a difference between actively killing a person and passively letting an individual die. What is justifiable is withholding or refusing treatment while most people assume that assisted suicide is actively killing someone thus, not justifiable. Vulnerable individuals who might not have access to proper care or support may be at the risk of provoked assisted death. Assisted suicide is argued to be prone to abuse as it may be used as a strategy to contain costs (Battin, Rhodes & Silvers 2000). This aid in protest against assisted suicide.
Ethical issues in medicine are highly opposed to taking someone’s life. Some organizations oppose assisted death such as the American Medical Association. Their main worry is that links to such activities may harm their image and integrity of the profession. The public will see physicians not as healers, but as murderers or executioners. Another argument against assisted suicide is that some medical practitioners may hide under such laws when an accident or error in diagnosis and treatment which might result in the death of a patient. Thus, there is an obligation to improve the quality of symptom and pain management and to protect lives against such mistakes (Furbish 2006).