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A Case For The Legalization Of Physician Assisted Suicide

1379 words - 6 pages

A Case for the Legalization of Physician-Assisted Suicide
On February 20, 2009, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer.
When initially diagnosed, his oncologist told him that he had less than one year to live. During
the last year of his life, my grandfather received palliative care that was meant to ease the pain
caused by the progression of his disease. However, as the weeks progressed, my grandfather's
cancer ravaged his body, leaving behind a mere shell of the man he once was. As a result, he
spent most days bed-ridden and in great pain, unable to care for himself. During the last two
weeks of his life, his cancer spread throughout his body and engulfed his brain, robbing him of
all mental capabilities including his ability to communicate. Four days prior to his death, my
mother and her younger brother were left with the responsibility of administering hourly doses of
morphine to my grandfather. It was their hope that the morphine would not only ease his pain,
but also end his life. On March 16, 2010, my grandfather died. Due to the undignified and
inhumane manner in which my grandfather spent his last months on this earth, I believe the right
to choose physician-assisted suicide to end one's life should be legal for those who have a
terminal illness.
As a nation, we have vehemently deliberated the legalization of physician-assisted
suicide since 1906. Today, "33 states have statues that explicitly criminalize assisted suicide,
and nine additional states criminalize assisted suicide through common law" ("Assisted Suicide
Laws State by State"). North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming have "abolished the common law of
crimes, and as a result, do not have statutes that criminalize assisted suicide" ("Assisted Suicide
Laws State by State"). In Ohio, the state's Supreme Court ruled in October 1996 that "assisted
suicide is not a crime" ("Assisted Suicide Laws State by State"). In Virginia, there is no real
case law on assisted suicide, nor is there a statute criminalizing the act. This leaves only three
states (Oregon, Washington, and Montana) that legally permit physician-assisted suicide. As

this debate continues, law makers and citizens must focus on the fact that in order to legalize
assisted suicide we must consider and accept two conflicting principles: "the principle of patient
autonomy and the principle of the sanctity of life" (Warnock 18).
Due to medical ethics, doctors must treat their patients "as rational human beings capable
of making choices and possessing free will: the principle of autonomy" (Warnock 19). In order
to ensure strict adherence to this principle, legislation like that in Oregon, Washington, and
Montana includes strict rules/guidelines regarding patient autonomy. According to the assisted
suicide laws of these states, "two doctors must determine if an adult patient who is diagnosed
with a terminal illness has six months or less to live" ("Choice, Control, and Dignity"). In
addition, both doctors must...

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