The Right To Die

“My intent as a doctor was to carry out my duty, to end their suffering. Unfortunately, that entailed, in their cases, the ending of life,” were the words spoken by Jack Kevorkian, a doctor who assisted 130 terminally ill patients into a painless death (Paris). In 1997, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans who want to kill themselves but are physically unable to do so, have no Constitutional right to end their lives (Paris). Kevorkian was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison, charged with second degree murder. However, Kevorkian was only helping people who do not want to suffer through pain or see the trauma their suffering might cause friends and family.

Most people do not understand the difference between euthanasia and physician assisted suicide. Euthanasia is causing the death of a person to protect him or her from future suffering while physician assisted suicide is when a doctor helps a person kill themselves by request (Aungst). These processes cannot be mistaken for suicide nor killing, but this simply the act of allowing a person to be free of the agony of life.

Who are we to decide that a person does not have the right to end his or her life when he or she wants to? To make a suffering person, whose death is inevitable, live longer than they wish, is inhumane, cruel, and even barbaric ( Kleinsman). Doctors can end the patient’s suffering, and relieve the pain when he or she are unwilling to live in the only way left open to them, and allow the plea of “Please…I have had enough” to be answered.


When doctors graduate medical school, they must swear on The Hippocratic Oath that states:
“I will treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient. I will follow that method of treatment which according to my ability and my judgment, I consider will be for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous. I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing nor perform the utmost respect for every human life”(McCuen).

How should a physician respond when comfort care stops working, suffering is intolerable, and death is the only escape? The oath states that a doctor’s ability and judgment should be used for the benefit of their patient. However, it also says that no lethal dose of medicine be given to any patient even if asked. So if a doctor believes to the best of his or her ability and of best judgment to ease a dying patient into a painless death, who is to say they can’t? To oppose assisted suicide is claiming that one must always fight to the last operation. Without an easy death, the patient receives a death full of suffering. Ultimately the person still died, and he or she still suffered (Reville).

For physicians to assist patients in ending their lives is lawful under certain circumstances. For a doctor to allow assisted suicide there must be restrictions. The patient has to have less than six months to live and a second doctor must agree on the diagnosis. The patient must make the request to end his or her life twice verbally and once on paper. The patient must show no signs of psychiatric or psychological disorder; if he or she does, he or she will be referred to counseling. Finally, the patient would be required to take the lethal injection or ingest the lethal prescription prescribed by the doctor (Campbell).

The decision to live or die belongs to the individual. To prevent that choice violates religious and personal freedoms. Allowing physician assisted suicide it can save a life of tremendous pain and suffering, and would also let a person die with dignity and prevent a messy, horrifying, and traumatic suicide. How is the decision to terminate treatment different from the decision to end ones’ life when the outcomes are the same (McCuen)?

One of the most important choices a person has to make is deciding between life and death, to let a person die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly. Who is to tell someone what they can do with their life, and their body? Why should anyone have to suffer and be left in pain? People’s views about how to live color their conviction about how and when to die; we must know there is a time to be born and a time to die.





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RosePetal519 said...
Jul. 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm
A very well constructed and altogether well written article.  However I disagree because I am against physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.  But I'll explain myself to be fair.   A line (or quote) that you put says "the decision to live or die belongs with the individual". Wrong. That decision belongs only to God.  "There is a time to be born and a time to die" very true, but since God was the one who decided the very moment that you would enter this world he should be t... (more »)
 
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