The Debate On Whether Assisted Suicide Is Ethical Or Immoral

1785 words - 7 pages

The Debate on Whether Assisted Suicide is Ethical or Immoral


Assisted Suicide, also known as mercy killing, occurs when a physician provides the means (drugs or other agents) by which a person can take his or her own life. This assistance is one of the most debated issues today in society followed by abortion. Physicians are frequently faced with the question of whether or not assisted suicide is ethical or immoral. Although assisted suicide is currently illegal in almost all states in America, it is still often committed. Is assisted suicide ethical? Studies have found that the majority of Americans support assisted suicide. One must weigh both sides of the argument before they can decide.

On July 26, 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld decisions in New York and Washington State that criminalized assisted suicide. These decisions overturned rulings in the 2nd and 9th Circuit Courts of Appeal, which struck down state statutes banning physician-assisted suicide. Those courts had found that the statutes, which prohibited doctors from prescribing lethal medication to competent, terminally ill adults, violated the 14th Amendment. In striking the appellate decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court found that there was no constitutional "right to die," but left it to individual states to enact legislation permitting or prohibiting physician-assisted suicide. As of April 1999, physician-assisted suicide is illegal in the majority of states. Over thirty states have enacted statutes prohibiting assisted suicide, and of those that do not have statutes, a number of them arguably prohibit it through common law.

Currently, Oregon is the only state that has legalized assisted suicide. The Oregon statute, which came into effect in October 1997, states that a doctor may prescribe, but not administer, a lethal dose of medication to a patient who has less than six months to live. It is required that two separate doctors must agree that the patient is mentally competent and that the decision was voluntary. As of April 1999, 23 patients were given drugs legally under the statute, and 15 of them used the drugs to commit suicide.
What makes assisted suicide legal in Oregon? Is it fair that individuals in Oregon are allowed to end their suffering painlessly? Unfortunately, numerous people throughout America have terminal illnesses that cause tremendous personal suffering. These people do not want to continue living, they are aware that their health will not improve and the pain will not come to an end so in turn they want to end their lives peacefully and painlessly. These people feel as if they have no control over their pain and disease and they wish to gain control over their lives by ending them.

One notorious individual who took the law into his own hands and is known for his frequent involvement in assisted suicide is the former Dr. Jack Kevorkian (he has lost his right to practice). Kevorkian also known as “Dr. Death” by many has...

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