Physician Assisted Suicide; A Viable End Of Life Directive

2373 words - 10 pages

Today, most states do not honor the wills of their terminally ill citizens wishing to end their suffering with dignity and compassion. Even with accurate identification of terminal illness prompting legality of some end-of-life directives, most terminal patients must adhere to conventional symptomatic treatments imposing slow physical and mental deterioration without regard to other feasible options. Information garnered from the experience of Oregon’s legalization of physician assisted suicide illuminates the feasibility of this end-of-life option. Physician assisted suicide is beneficial for terminal patients choosing to circumvent imminent mental and physical indignities; therefore this end-of-life option should be legally executable devoid of prosecution.

Today’s medical science makes available accurate identification of terminal illness, predictions of associated pain and suffering, as well as timeline towards diminishing quality of life. Method and accuracy of palliative prognostics in terminal illness is actively studied in the medical academic arena. Maltoni et al.’s 2012 study concludes survival probabilities using the Palliative Prognostic Score (PaP) method has been extensively validated resulting in high accuracy and reproducibility (p. 446). This greater understanding of life expectancy supports the means for a medical plan of action specific for the patient as defined by the patient, family, and physician. With acknowledgment of terminal illness, individuals can deal with death and express end-of-life decisions.

Living wills legally communicate end-of-live decisions in the form of advanced directives. Certain end-of-life directives are considered a legal right. These directives include refusing life sustaining treatment such as use of dialysis, breathing machines, nutrition, or resuscitation actions. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms in Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al. (1997) that a competent individual's decision to refuse life-sustaining medical procedures is “an interest in liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment” (p.742). Refusal of these treatments allows the body to die at a faster progression, yet not without pain and suffering. In response to this, the conventional method to eliminate suffering during final days of terminal illness is through continuous sedation.

Continuous sedation (CS) is also referred to as terminal or palliative sedation. The American Medical Association defines this as “administration of sedative medication to the point of unconsciousness in a terminally ill patient” (para.1). CS is not used to cause death, yet the expected outcome is death. It is used to make the patient comfortable through unconsciousness while the disease causes death. Unlike CS, physician assisted suicide (PAS) is intended to cause death in a terminally ill patient. As explained by Raus, Sterckx, and Mortier, (2011), “PAS involves a physician providing a patient with a lethal dose of medication, at...

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