This term is commonly used when a doctor assists a terminally ill person to die. However, other terms such as death with dignity and physician aided dying are used to represent the same thing (Humphry, 2006). It occurs when someone through an act of omission, voluntary or involuntary helps another person to end his or her life. This assistance can take place through various forms such as providing means, arsenic, removing some restraints or obstacles or failing to do something to the patient. The assisted suicide is very controversial topic for many countries, not only for the United States of America. For example, the Supreme Court in U.S has ruled that there is no constitutional right to it, and, on the other hand, some states have unequivocally criminalized it. Nevertheless, Oregon State has a law that legalizes it. Furthermore, other parts of the world like Netherlands have also legalized it, yet the debate remains should it be legalized or not (Snyder, 2002).
The idea of euthanasia is closely related to assisted suicide. Euthanasia can take different forms when a doctor allows patient to die through the nature’s course or with the help of active participation of the doctor or member of the family. This latter form of euthanasia is also known as assisted suicide. In U.S, passive euthanasia is legal while active is illegal with the exception of Oregon state. It takes place when terminally ill people refuse to take medications that only prolong their life without improving their well being. The Self-Determination Act in the U.S gives its citizens the right to refuse medical procedures that would delay the inevitable outcome of their illness (Kopelman & Deville, 2001). The issue of acceptability of physician assisted suicide or assisted suicide has elicited enormous debates for a long period. The debate has always been based on proper legal, religious, ethical and professional response of the people prepared to offer these procedures. These issues have led to the emergence of the two groups of people; those who oppose and the proponents of assisted suicide.
Arguments for Assisted Suicide
Proponents of this practice argue that citizens who suffer from degenerative, painful or a fatal condition that would hinder them from enjoying a healthy life has a right for assisted suicide. Another argument is that assisted suicide allows a patient to end his/her life in an ethical and merciful manner. On the other hand, most of the terminally ill patients undergo suffering from a pain and no longer wish to have their lives prolonged. They rather die quietly rather than undergo expensive, painful and debilitating treatments. Therefore, the use of technology to keep somebody alive against their will is terribly cruel and inhuman, especially when pain is a decisive factor. Doctors should offer the possibility of an easier solution which does not bring the patient a lot of pain and suffering.
Also, financial implications of keeping a terminally ill person are lofty to the family of the patient. This stresses the patients as they are in constant worry and concern about the safety of their families. The reason is that they take time caring for them and in some cases paying the bills for their artificial extension of life. The cost of a terminally ill person tends to increase towards the end of the person’s life. Therefore, it is only prudent to ease this burden of the family members, especially if the family and friends network are in agreement. If the patients are not assisted in the process of dying there, there is a possibility that they will undertake suicide. Furthermore, the act of committing suicide is more painful than assisted suicide. On the other hand, attempted suicide can go wrong, and this may lead to other devastating outcomes for the patient (Smith, 2011).
Arguments against Assisted Suicide
Ethical, moral and professional issues are mostly considered in opposition of this practice. The Hippocratic Oath which doctors take prevents them from doing harm to patients. Sanctioning of physician assisted suicide is tantamount to giving doctors license to kill. Most of the patients who request assisted suicide are those with no access to adequate pain control or are clinically depressed and have not received proper diagnosis. The doctors and other medical experts have an obligation to ensure better management of the patients so as to reduce requests of assisted suicide. Assisted suicide would lead to patients losing trust in their doctors. Thus, the fear of whether the doctor would administer a fatal dose can occur (Rogatz, 2001).
It demeans the value of human life. To end a person’s life simply because it is not convenient or expensive to treat reduces the value that is associated with human life. This indicates that human life is more than just a mere cluster of biological cells. Legalization of this practice could lead to abuse by some people. Patients who are not critically ill may take advantage of the loosened status to abuse the privilege. Moreover, psychological and emotionally sick patients who want to die can convince their doctors to help them end their lives. On the other hand, many religions prohibit suicide and intentional killing. Most Christians have a law that prohibits murder and virtually all religions have one law. Decision making on the issues of life should be left to God and not to doctors. The morality of the patients and that of the doctors must be protected (Messerli, 2012).
Doctors and family members may tend to give up on recovery too early. If patients are notified of the time they have left to live with progressively pain they may decide to end their lives before their time to die. This may deny family members quality time and also may end the slim chances to recovery. Government and insurance companies may use assisted suicide in order to reduce the rate of premiums. They may pressurize doctors to avoid certain medical measures that can save the patient. Either the doctor can be requested to recommend it. Another argument is that the power of the human spirit should never be underestimated. This is because miracle cures or recoveries can occur. More time should be spent on how to sustain life but not how to end it. Nevertheless, doctors like any other person can be wrong or unethical. An incorrect diagnosis can cause a disastrous course of action (Messerli, 2012).
The topic on assisted suicide has elicited controversy for some time with opposing it while others are in favor. The state of Oregon in U.S has legalized it and at the same applies to Netherlands. The opponents argue that assisted suicide demeans human life, violates doctors’ Hippocratic Oath; moreover can open floodgates for abuse by non critical ill patients, doctors, government and insurance companies. Also, religions prohibit it, miracle cure and recoveries can occur, and doctors can be wrong in diagnosis or be unethical. On the other hand, proponents argue that it can help save patients from tremendous pain and suffering. Right to die is a key freedom of every person, and it helps patient to die with dignity, health cost is reduced, helps to free nurses and doctors time, it lessens pain and anguish of patients. It is clear that family reasonable laws can be created to safeguard it against abuse vital organs can be saved, and it can minimize committal of suicides by patients. However, despite all these arguments in the most countries this act is prohibited.