Physician-Assisted Suicide: A Case Study Analysis
There are many legal and ethical issues when discussing the topic of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). The legal issues are those regarding numerous court cases over the past few decades, the debate over how the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution comes into play, and the legalization vs. illegalization of this practice. The 14th Amendment states, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (U.S. Const. amend. XIV, §1). PAS in the past has been upheld as illegal due to the Equal Protection ...view middle of the document...
Washington State had previously passed a law titled Natural Death Act. This states that, “withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment…shall not, for any purpose, constitute a suicide or a homicide” (Natural Death Act, 1979). This law gave people the right to refuse life-saving treatment and the respondents of the Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al. case argued that PAS was along the same liberties. They argued that every person should have the right to die a dignified death and the liberty to make these choices (Illingworth & Parmet, 2006). Despite their argument, the case was ruled in favor of the defendants for the following reasons; the state has the commitment to preserve life, prevent suicide, protect the integrity of the medical profession, and protect vulnerable groups (Illingworth & Parmet, 2006).
However, in November of 2008 the Death with Dignity Act passed, in the state of Washington, legalizing PAS. This shows how often this debate is brought to the courts and how important it is to health care providers and those at the end-of-life. Washington’s Death with Dignity Act, which was based off of Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act of 1997, states that if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness, given less then six months to live, and are mentally competent to make decisions, you can be prescribed a lethal dose (with two doctors consent) of medication that must be self-administered at home (Death with Dignity Act, 2008).
There are many moral and ethical issues surrounding the topic of suicide and therefore PAS. The moral dilemmas surrounding why PAS is largely still illegal, is due to the commitment the State has to protecting life, the integrity of the medical profession, and vulnerable groups. There is also a fear of the slippery slope argument such as legalizing PAS could lead to involuntary acts of assisted suicide. The moral principles that are often used to legalize PAS include a person’s autonomy to decide the manner of one’s own death and the right to die with dignity.
The government has the commitment to protect all human life, regardless of ones physical, emotional, or mental state. An argument used in the Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al. (1997) case was that the State has an important role in preventing suicide and often time’s people who are suicidal are depressed or in physical pain. Once these two factors are removed, the suicidal tendencies drastically decrease (Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al., 1997). As Frank and Anselmi (2011) stated, the court needs to help those who have a, “temporary imbalance with permanent consequences” (p. 12).
Protecting the Medical Profession
This is an important aspect to health care providers when discussing PAS, and includes doctors and nurses. The medical profession is based on integrity, honesty, and reliability. The Nursing Code of Ethics states that it is important to maintain the integrity of the profession and to continue to...