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Physician assisted suicide is one major topic of concern that has generated unavoidable controversy in the field of medical bioethics. It is fundamentally different from voluntary active euthanasia which gives the physician autonomous authority to end a patient’s life if they are unable to initially swallow it (Jecker 1). The virtues provided by human nature gives them the right to choose a particular direction as long as this conforms to the normal operating norms governing the administration of a medical intervention. This explains the fundamental differences and similarities emerging from the manner in which the matter of physician-assisted suicide has been pursued in Oregon and Michigan as provided in the articles.
According to the Jecker’s article, she raises concern regarding the sustainability of the practice with regard to the practice extending to other states. Oregon legalized physician assisted suicide back in 1997 under their Death with Dignity Act (Jecker 1). The provisions made were later to be picked on by Washington. Washington passed it into law under their initiative 1000 after an approval by 57.91% voters, and this was to be for terminally ill adults (Jecker 1). Follow up on the implementation of the provisions into local law reveals significant distinctions regarding their decisions. In as much this appeared to be collective, it is contrary to their rejection of voluntary active euthanasia six years earlier in 1991 under initiative 119 (Jecker 1).
Jecker also attempts to correlate the impending similarities in the two states while focusing on the reluctance of both parties to give way to voluntary euthanasia. Jecker postulates, “Oregonians have not proposed any measures to broaden the category of eligible patients, or to increase the role of the physicians beyond prescribing medication” (Jecker 1). This supports the argument that allowing physician assisted suicide does not necessarily provide a guarantee of future approval of a people towards voluntary euthanasia. Jecker further raises concern over the level of commitment towards the eligibility criteria for those allowed by the law to consult for the services. This gives a valid reason for the institution of Oregon’s Department of Human Services in a bid to collect reports and subsequently monitor compliance. According to the report from the Department of Human Services, “during 1998-2007, the overwhelmingly majority of participants were white at 97.4%, college educated at 64.2%, and some form of health insurance at, 99.1%. Most participants were men at 53.7% with a median age of 69 years…9.4% of participants were age 85 years and older“(Jecker 1). The data therefore portrays a significant failure rate at reaching vulnerable population characteristics going by the initially set variables.
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Critique on Results and Conclusions
Looking at the contemporary practice of the physician assisted suicide in the two states one notes the way in which it has been actively pursued as a viable alternative to voluntary active euthanasia. This can be seen from the Oregon’s 94.3% cases in which physician assisted suicide was administered without any complications (Jecker 2). Furthermore, the legal battles that have ensued in a bid to challenge the application and relevance of the provision in the current institutional framework have only led to no significant conclusions. This could be attributed to the manner in which carries with it stringent provisions meant to be pursued by the medical personnel.
The practice could potentially spread to other states such as Michigan, California, and Maine due to the success rates registered so far in the pioneers, Oregon and Washington. Considering the fact that Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act did not significantly lead to failure in patients pursuing other viable alternatives, in fact, data from 1998 – 2007 shows that 85.5% of participants got enrolled under hospice care (Jecker 2). This shows a significant acceptance rate among the population of physician assisted suicide as a viable alternative to other previously existing forms for this cadre of affected persons. The Pacific Northwest has therefore provided a major credence to other state jurisdictions regarding the applicability of the practice. In addition, the data is relevant as it can be used to project relevance and applicability with regard to contextual variations.
From the Jecker’s article, it is evident that there still exist mixed views regarding the relevance of physician-assisted suicide with regard to the existing moral-ethic guidelines. Consider the fact that, “While Washingtonians said ‘yes’ to physician assisted suicide by passing initiative 1000 in 2008, they said ‘no’ to voluntary by rejecting initiative 119 in 1991 (Jecker 2). This further shows the relativity and care exercised by the citizens towards extending some of the fundamental and basic rights of the physicians. There are however two possibilities to this kind of move or decision path: First, that in as much as an individual may fit the description of those falling within the vulnerable groups, care must be taken to discourage its improper use. Second, that in as much as physicians have the rights to institute the provisions even when patients refuses to do so, the decision still lies squarely with terminally ill patient. This is further supported by Jecker’s statement that, “…ordinary citizens have the authority to enact new laws or change existing laws by petitioning to place proposed legislation on the ballot, with most initiative measures requiring a simple majority” (Jecker 2). Therefore, this serves to provide the citizens the power to control some of the major decisions regarding implementation of some of the proposed measures as seen in other geographical localities, as seen in Oregon and Washington’s case.
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