"With the stroke of a pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown made it legal for physicians in the state to prescribe lethal doses of medications if their terminally ill patients wish to end their lives. Brown signed the "End of Life Act" into law on Monday, and in doing so California joins four other states — Oregon, Washington, Vermont and Montana — where patients' right to choose doctor-assisted death is protected either by law or court order."
Death, despite various definitions of the concept, is an unavoidable part of life in which all persons will one day become acquainted. However one prefers to essentially exist and prolong this event is completely his or her choice. Or is it? What, then, if an individual should choose death itself? Should that person, regardless of the reason for hastening death, be denied assistance if sought after?
The concept of physician-assisted suicide has been a topic of debate since the birth of medicine. Controversy even surrounds its name as the term “suicide” is associated with a form of mental illness and irrational behavior, both of which are to be prevented it if at all possible according to medical obligation (Quill and Greenlaw). Physician assisted death/suicide occurs when a physician provides a medical means of death and instruction to a patient but does not administer the actual cause of death (Lonnquist and Weiss 389-91). This is quite different than the concept of active euthanasia in which a physician directly administers the cause of death. Recognized as far back as the 5th century BCE in the ancient Hippocratic Oath, the origin of this practice could well predate the 4th century in which physicians were required to take the oath before practicing (Reich). Observed during this time period, Greek and Roman individuals had fairly tolerable attitudes towards the concepts of active euthanasia, suicide, and infanticide, which were significant precursors to the topic of physician- assisted suicide. At this time in ancient cities of Greece and Rome, there was not a widely defined belief that considered the intrinsic value of human life and some physicians even performed frequent abortions as well as voluntary and involuntary mercy killings (Historical). The Hippocratic Oath, ideal of the practice during this period, prohibited physicians from administering deadly drugs to patients, even at their request, or from suggesting a course of action to this effect for any reason. It also notably bars against giving women abortive remedies, a topic directly related to physician assisted suicide (Eileen). Even though a number of physicians acted outside of this upheld oath, few followed the oath faithfully. With the emergence and upsurge of Christianity in this period however; attitudes toward life and a physician’s medical duties would change dramatically. Many began to...