Is Physician-Assisted Suicide A Solution ?
Physician assisted suicide (PAS) is a very important issue. It is also important tounderstand the terms and distinction between the varying degrees to which a person can be involved in hastening the death of a terminally ill individual. Euthanasia, a word that is often associated with physician assisted suicide, means the act or practice of killing for reasons of mercy. Assisted suicide takes place when a dying person who wishes to precipitate death, requests help in carrying out the act. In euthanasia, the dying patients may or may not be aware of what is happening to them and may or may not have requested to die. In an assisted suicide, the terminally ill person wants to die and has specifically asked for help. Physician-assisted suicide occurs when the individual assisting in the suicide is a doctor rather than a friend or family member. Because doctors are the people most familiar with their patients’ medical condition and have knowledge of and access to the necessary means to cause certain death, terminally ill patients who have made
the decision to end their lives often turn to their physicians for advice. However, studies indicate that many physicians are unwilling to provide their assistance in suicide because it conflicts with their ethical beliefs and because it is illegal. The legalization of PAS is a sensitive, yet complicated, topic which is becoming more and more popular with America’s aging population and the terminally ill patients. PAS is a social issue which is here to stay. The legalization of PAS is continually being debated all over the United States and offers a potential for abuse. In 1994, PAS laws of Washington and New York were challenged in federal court and declared unconstitutional. Physician assisted suicide should not be legalized in any state.
As society must understand, PAS is challenged for several reasons.
First of all, the “Right-To-Die” group and the Hemlock Society contend that terminally ill individuals have the right to end their own lives in some instances, and because PAS is illegal, many patients are unable to get the help necessary to terminate their lives and must involuntarily endure the extreme pain and suffering of their diseases. Others argue that PAS must be legalized for purposes of regulation. They contend that in spite of current law, the practice is conducted regularly in secrecy, therefore the potential for abuse already exists. Legalization with medical record documentation and reporting requirements will enable authorities to regulate the practice and guard against abuses while punishing the real offenders. Also, supporters strongly suggest that laws banning PAS do not save lives, but rather, they cruelly prolong deaths. Despite the reasons which lead some to believe PAS should be a viable alternative, it should not be legalized.