Assisted Suicide Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1747 words and 10 pages.

Assisted Suicide


Assisted suicide (or Euthanasia) is a topic undergoing serious debate. There exist two
obvious and definite opinions regarding this controversy. The anti-euthanasia faction
consist of:

 Conservative religious groups. They are often the same organizations that oppose access to abortion.
 Medical associations whose members are dedicated to saving and extending life,
and feel uncomfortable helping people end their lives.

 Groups concerned with disabilities, which fear that euthanasia is the first step
towards a society that will kill disabled people against their will.

These groups bring both a religious and professional ethics perspective to the opinion
that physician assisted suicide should be prohibited by law.

The other side of the debate over euthanasia is those individuals who follow the
convictions of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the Right to Die organization. The book
Prescription: Medicine (1993) is an interesting, yet controversial book about physician
assisted suicide. Authored by the only physician known to provide assisted suicide to
terminally ill patients, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the book brings up some topics of heated
debate. Kevorkian discusses his Suicide Machine, reasons for assisted suicide, and some of
the cases he has supervised.

The Proponents for Euthanasia

In his book, Dr. Kevorkian explains the ancient roots of euthanasia and his invention of
the Suicide Machine. He gives examples of how doctors in the time of the Pythagorean
readily gave poison to any patient who requested it. Kevorkian tries to justify assisted
suicide by carefully stating the words of the Hippocratic Oath. He also thoughtfully
interprets both the laws and the oath in order to make it look like they agree with his

One justification for assisted suicide that Kevorkian uses is that of a proclamation by a
medical committee that it is ethical for physicians to help terminally ill patients commit
suicide. Only, he doesn’t make it very obvious that the committee is part of a special
interest group known as the Society for the Right to Die. This committee was obviously
biased because of its affiliation with the organization.

There could be some complicated problems if physicians were allowed to perform euthanasia
at anytime on anybody who wanted it. The biggest problem might be if someone is mentally
and physically incapacitated to the point where they can’t make decisions on their own,
and they want to die, who is really making the decision? Are they deciding or is it their
greedy relatives that want the inheritance? Absolutely no one has the right to choose who
gets to live or who gets to die.

Advocates of voluntary euthanasia contend that if a person is meets the following criteria
then there should be legal and medical provision to enable her to be allowed to die or
assisted to die. The individual must be:

1.) suffering from a terminal illness
2.) unlikely to benefit from the discovery of a cure for that illness during what
remains of their life expectancy
3.) as a direct result of the illness, either suffering intolerable pain, or only has
available a life that is unacceptably burdensome (because the illness has
to be treated in ways which lead to her being unacceptably dependent on
others or on technological means of life support)
4.) have an enduring, voluntary and rational wish to die (or has, prior to
losing the competence to do so, expressed a wish to die in the event that conditions #1 - #3 are satisfied); and
5.) unable, without assistance, to commit suicide
The major argument is that people possess the right to end their own lives if they wish
to. There is no laws or regulations outlawing it and the action harms no one other then
the individual who commits suicide. Advocates of euthanasia believe that death is
preferable for people whose quality of life has shrunk to zero, find the indignities of
being cared for as an infant unbearable, or simply want to die with dignity before they
become very sick. This group would include, but is not limited to individuals afflicted
by ALS, Huntington's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, Alzheimer's, etc.

The Opponents of Euthanasia

In a recent article from the Connecticut Post (1998) a physician described the phrase
“doctor assisted suicide” as an oxymoron. The author believes that if someone assists you
with taking your life you have not really committed suicide. Whether it is a doctor or
your best friend helping you take your life, it is nothing less then murder.

As mentioned earlier in this document the three primary constituents of the
anti-euthanasia debate are religious institutions, medical professionals, and persons with

There are two primary arguments offered by Christians, and those of other religions, that
caution against a person pursuing suicide, in any form:

1.) Life is a gift from God, and that "each individual [is] its steward." Thus, only God
can start a life, and only God should be allowed to end one. An individual who

commits suicide is committing sin.
2.) God does not send us any experience that we cannot handle. God supports people
in suffering. To actively seek an end to one's life would represent a lack of trust
in God's promise.
These beliefs are common in most religions ranging from Christianity to Islam. In some
ancient religions suicide is permitted but the method of death is in no way comfortable or
“good”. Usually the suicide is very painful and is a symbol of your faith. Unfortunately
because of the secular nature of most religions their views on euthanasia are not very
practical arguments, especially with the growing percentage of Agnostics, Atheists,
Humanists, secularists, non-Christians and liberal Christians.

Medical professionals who are dedicated to preserve life argue that the oath that they
take upon becoming a physician binds them to not assist their patients in committing
suicide. In fact the American Medical Associations’ policy toward euthanasia says that
"Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally inconsistent with the physician's
professional role…" and, "it is critical that the medical profession redouble its efforts
to ensure that dying patients are provided optimal treatment for their pain and other
discomfort. The use of more aggressive comfort care measures, including greater reliance
on hospice care, can alleviate the physical and emotional suffering that dying patients
experience...". To be a practicing doctor you must follow and understand this oath.
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